Boeing will keep its Seattle-area factories closed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic

Boeing 737MAX factory

REUTERS/Jason Redmond

Boeing's new 737 MAX-9 is pictured under construction at their production facility in Renton, Washington

Boeing will keep its Washington state manufacturing facilities closed "until further notice," the company said in a statement late Sunday.

The planemaker previously closed the factories for a two-week period on March 23, following an employee's death from COVID-19.Advertisement

About 70,000 employees work at the two major factories and several smaller facilities in the Puget Sound region of Washington, near Seattle. About 30,000 production employees will be affected, according to the Seattle Times, while others will be able to work from home.

The company's other production sites, in Missouri, South Carolina, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, have remained open.

Workers continued to receive pay for the two-week closure. Boeing did not mention worker salaries in Sunday's statement about the extension of the closures.

"These actions are being taken in light of the company's continuing focus on the health and safety of employees, current assessment of the spread of COVID-19 in Washington state, the reliability of the supply chain and additional recommendations from government health authorities," the company said in the statement.

The extended shutdown points to renewed uncertainty surrounding production of Boeing's 737 Max plane, which is built in its Renton, Washington, factory.Manufacturing of the plane has been suspended since January. While Boeing had maintained production of the plane at 42 units per month since its global grounding in March 2019, it has been unable to deliver the planes to customers due to the grounding. The company began to run out of storage space, with about 400 planes awaiting delivery.Advertisement

Boeing previously said it expected the plane to resume flying by "mid-2020." However, as the coronavirus crisis leads to a massive cut in capacity by airlines, it is unclear whether this timeline remains.

On Friday, airplane lessor Avolon canceled an order for 75 Max planes, worth about $3.8 billion at list price, a major blow for Boeing.

Boeing has 133 confirmed cases among employees worldwide, 95 of whom are in Washington state, according to the Seattle Times.Advertisement

Rival planemaker Airbus, based in Europe, has also reduced production due to the outbreak.

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