PONTOTOC • Thousands of furniture manufacturing employees will be idled in the coming days as the coronavirus continues its march.
On Sunday, Behold Washington CEO Lyle Harris said the company would stop production at least through Friday.
Southern Motion and Fusion Furniture said Monday they would close until at least April 3. On Sunday the companies said they would close on Monday a Fusion employee was diagnosed with the virus. Then an employee at Southern was diagnosed.
That puts some 2,100 workers out of work.
Salaried workers are allowed to come to the office starting Tuesday.
“While temporarily closing our operations is a tough decision and was not taken likely, we believe this action is prudent to protect you, your families and the community,” Southern Motion posted on Facebook.
The Southern Motion family companies include Fusion Furniture, Cushions to Go, Recline Design, and Premier Foam, and employees of the locations will have their insurance premiums paid by Southern Motion.
The production schedule for the upcoming week and updates will be provided on Monday, it said.
At Behold Home, Harris said the shutdown will remain in effect until Friday. The company, with facilities in Smithville and Pontotoc, employs about 300 people.
“We will reevaluate the situation on a daily basis and communicate when we will reopen through our Facebook page and local news outlets. We are in the process of establishing a team that will be working to communicate with our employees and customers,” Harris wrote to employees. “My view is that it is only a matter of time before one or multiple cases are diagnosed in our workforce.”
However, he said, “Our company leadership can’t sit idly by and wait for the results. In my view, we have a responsibility to each of our valued employees and we have a responsibility to the larger communities in which we live to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus. We have to stem the spread and social distancing and a proactive work stoppage of non-essential industry is the best and only path at this point.”
American Furniture Manufacturing in Ecru said Monday it was suspending operations for its nearly 500 employees through at least March 29.
The company said "a decision will be made weekly by Thursday evening and communicated by Facebook concerning the next work week."
American is continuing medical/dental coverage for covered employees through April 30.
The plant shutdowns follow Franklin Corp.’s announcement Friday that it was stopping production through March 29 after an employee tested positive.
The company said they it will reevaluate the situation on Friday to decide how is best to proceed. Franklin employs about 900 workers.
With Affordable Furniture in Houlka (300 employees) and HomeStretch Furniture in Nettleton (450) also closed, at least 4,000 in the furniture industry are off work.