Apr 24, 2020 - Economy & Business

A glimpse of the new normal at work

GM workers collaborate as we all will some day: wearing masks. Photo: Joann Muller/Axios

Whether you work in a factory, a retail store, a restaurant or an office, you're going to have to get used to wearing a mask at work for the foreseeable future.

Why it matters: Until there's a vaccine for the coronavirus, or enough people have been exposed that it's no longer a threat, masks will be advised, and likely required, in public.

Context: I visited a former GM transmission factory Thursday that is now a hub of mask-making activity.

To be allowed inside, I had to practice all of the new health safety protocols that GM is instituting at its factories and which are likely to be similar for any workplace.

  • I sanitized my hands and then put on a mask.
  • I had my temperature taken, and answered a health questionnaire.
  • I did not sign in; instead the security guard signed me in from behind a cordoned-off visitors' desk.
  • Inside the clean room where GM is making the masks, I donned a gown and a hairnet for added precautions.

My thought bubble: It was exciting to be out of my house, and doing my job for a change, but I was anxious about touching anything, or letting people stand too close.

The whole point of wearing a mask at work, however, is to allow safe interactions with colleagues.

  • The break area, on the other hand, was a lonely-looking place: one chair at each table, all facing the same direction, placed six feet apart.
  • The orientation area had footprints painted on the floor, telling workers where to stand during meetings.
  • After a masked interview across a large conference table, a GM employee quickly sterilized the table and chair where I'd been sitting.
  • This must be the new normal, I thought.

Gerald Johnson, GM's executive vice president of global manufacturing, says people just have to get used to it.

  • "It took us decades to learn how to wear seat belts. Today nobody questions it."

Go deeper: Automakers lay out back-to-work playbook for coronavirus pandemic

Go deeper

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.

Minneapolis will ban police chokeholds following George Floyd's death

A memorial for George Floyd at the site of his death in Minneapolis. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Minneapolis has agreed to ban the use of police chokeholds and will require nearby officers to act to stop them in the wake of George Floyd's death, AP reports.

Why it matters: The agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which has launched an investigation into Floyd's death while in police custody, will be enforceable in court.