HEGINS — A manufacturing plant in Schuylkill County is responding publicly to criticism regarding its decision to remain open despite the fact that one of its employees recently tested positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

MI Windows and Doors has Pennsylvania manufacturing plants in Hegins, Gratz and Millersburg. MI is a business exempted from the state-mandated closures list because it is a manufacturer of glass products, according to the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

According to MI, one of its Hegins employees who last worked on March 13, reportedly began experiencing symptoms two days later at home and has not yet returned to work.

On Saturday, the company was notified that the employee had tested positive and immediately contacted an expert remediation contractor to analyze the situation.

Based upon the time since the team member was last at work, along with MI’s cleaning practices and adherence to guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the remediation contractor considered the work area safe to occupy.

On Monday, Eric Rothermel, the company’s chief talent officer, said the company would continue operations.

“We are classified as an essential manufacturer of plastics and glass by state government,” Rothermel said. “Although I can’t comment on any specifics that the governor has established, we’re a manufacturer of windows and doors, both of which are essential elements in providing secure housing for those in need.

“Right now, our employees have the same concerns that are being felt by people everywhere such as what this outbreak looks like as it continues to spread,” he added.

Rothermel said MI’s remediation contractor, whom he declined to name, has “a great deal” of experience in dealing with such emergency issues and any potential residual effects upon the workplace.

“Our remediation contractor is an experienced and nationally recognized expert in dealing with incidents of this nature,” he said.

Rothermel said every precaution is being taken at MI to ensure its employees and the public are protected as the local manufacturer remains open for business.

“First and foremost, we are emphasizing social distancing within our facilities and developing creative ways to follow the recommended practices in that regard,” said Rothermel. “We are following CDC guidelines with regard to proper cleaning products and methods being used to sanitize our work environment. We’ve also stepped up our efforts in terms of how often we are cleaning the general manufacturing areas during and after work shifts throughout all of our facilities.”

Rothermel said MI has increased its use of hand sanitizers and wipes throughout its facilities. He emphasized that the company continues to review the situation on a daily basis and make required changes as necessary.

“We have within our business groups of people who are constantly focusing on improving MI’s response in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. We’re taking this very seriously, and our leadership teams are working day and night to address any health concerns,” he said.

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