CUMBERLAND — While the number of local COVID-19 cases increased Monday, an online petition with nearly 1,700 signatures asked Gov. Larry Hogan to reconsider closing American Woodmark for the health and safety of its employees and the surrounding community.
Hogan last month ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the state, which included anything that is not among recent federal guidelines for critical infrastructure sectors.
Last week after a visit from the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, American Woodmark, which makes cabinets, voluntarily shut down its U.S. Route 220 facility only to reopen it a short time later after an opinion from the governor's office.
The petition, posted on Change.org, states that the company believes it provides an essential service, but employees fear working conditions will lead to the spread of COVID-19.
“The Allegany plant has approximately 500 employees who are at risk daily,” the document states and adds that it’s physically impossible for workers to stay six feet away from each other. “We all work in close proximities, and we pass off parts constantly to perform our jobs. We could potentially be sending contaminated parts and/or cabinets to our customers.”
Many workers are worried about getting the disease and spreading it their families.
“The employees who do the physical work are at a high risk every day, and we don’t understand how cabinets can be considered essential,” the petition states. “The fear and anxiety at our plant is very apparent. We would hope you would reconsider re-closing our plant and take into consideration the effect this could have on our employees and their families and our community.”
The petition was reportedly sent to Hogan’s office on Sunday.
The Cumberland Times-News contacted the governor’s office and American Woodmark for comment on Monday. Neither responded.
Other local businesses that remain open include U.S. Cellular.
“In support of governmental recommendations, we have temporarily closed select stores across the country to help ensure the safety of our customers and associates,” the company’s website states. “The remainder of our stores will be open with reduced hours until further notice.”
On its website, Blind Industries & Services of Maryland states it is also a critical infrastructure industry.
“We continue to work diligently to maintain a safe workplace for all of our associates and take all appropriate measures to reduce the threat of the COVID-19 virus in our facilities,” the site states.