Coronavirus outbreak is affecting at least one big Idaho company

Posted at 11:53 AM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 13:53:59-05

The coronavirus, which has caused more than 550 reported deaths in China and has infected more than 24,000 people worldwide, has affected Idaho’s biggest technology company, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Micron Technology Inc. says it has implemented travel restrictions for Micron employees and on-site suppliers. The Boise memory-chip manufacturer is also conducting health screenings at many of its sites in Asia.

“Micron has not identified any cases testing positive for the novel coronavirus at its facilities, but will continue taking strong precautions as appropriate to ensure the wellness of our team members, contractors and visitors,” company spokeswoman Erica Rodriguez Pompen said in an email Thursday to the Idaho Statesman. “Novel” means new.

Pompen did not elaborate on either the travel restrictions or the health screenings. She did not immediately reply to emailed follow-up questions asking whether any coronavirus is suspected among employees who work at Micron plants or offices in Xian, China or Singapore, or at its offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen or Xi’an. Nor did she specify how the precautions affect Micron’s Boise employees.

Micron is the largest for-profit employer in the Treasure Valley, with more than 6,000 employees here. Its Federal Way campus, once a major chip-making plant, has evolved over the past 11 years into the company’s research and development hub, employing scientists and engineers from around the world. Micron employs about 34,000 people worldwide.

No cases of coronavirus have been reported in Idaho, but 11 people elsewhere in the United States have been diagnosed with it as of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Results are pending for an additional 76 people who have been tested for the virus.

The confirmed cases are in Washington state, California, Arizona, Illinois and Massachusetts. Six of the cases are in California.

More people in China have died from the coronavirus than from the outbreaks SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, in 2002. The outbreak killed 349 but had a mortality rate of about 10 percent, the Associated Press reported.

The respiratory illness causes fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Two-thirds of the cases are in the Hubei, a landlocked province of central China whose capital is Wuhan. Roughly two of every 100 cases has resulted in death.

Micron’s announcement came the same day the Chinese doctor who was one of the first to warn about the outbreak and was silenced by Chinese government officials died from the virus.

The virus has affected many other U.S. tech companies. Apple and Google have closed stores and offices while limiting business travel to China. They also expect disruptions to the supply chain, CNET reported.

At least 73 airlines have canceled flights to and from China. The U.S. State Department has issued a “do not travel” advisory, while the World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency.

On Wednesday, two jetliners carrying 350 American evacuees from the epicenter of the outbreak landed at Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, California. U.S. health officials said as many as 250 will be quarantined there for the next two weeks. None of the evacuees are showing symptoms of the virus.

The rest of the passengers are to be quarantined at a separate site near San Diego.

More flights are expected in coming days to evacuate more Americans from Wuhan, the AP reported. The city of 11 million people has been sealed off since Jan. 23.

To read John Sowell's story, check out the Idaho Statesman.