Alabama automakers lend a helping hand in COVID-19 battle

Alabama automakers lend a helping hand in COVID-19 battle
A face shield for medical professionals manufactured at the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville. Alabama automakers whose factories are otherwise idle during the COVID-19 pandemic are making useful supplies or contributing large donations to assist in the fight against the virus. (Toyota Alabama)

Alabama automakers are stepping in to aid their communities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, including support of crucial testing services and production of protective face shields for health care workers.

Toyota’s Huntsville engine factory is producing 7,500 protective face shields for local hospitals.

Toyota’s Huntsville engine factory is producing 7,500 protective face shields for local hospitals. (Toyota Alabama)

In addition, the plant has donated 160 safety glasses to local hospitals, along with $25,000 to the United Way of Madison County to support COVID-19 relief efforts.

“With our plant idled, Toyota Alabama is eager to contribute our expertise and know-how to help quickly bring to market the equipment needed to combat COVID-19,” the company said in a statement.

Similar efforts are happening at Toyota facilities nationwide.

Other Alabama automakers are offering community support as well.

Hyundai Motor America and its Hyundai Hope On Wheels program have donated $200,000 to the UAB to help expand community testing efforts.

The grant will support the existing drive-thru testing site in downtown Birmingham and help other sites in Jefferson County provide much-needed screening, said UAB Medicine CEO Will Ferniany.

“Support like this gift from Hyundai Hope On Wheels helps our front-line medical staff understand that they are not alone in this fight,” he said. “This grant will help further UAB’s commitment to providing access to communitywide testing.”

The grant will also be used to expand access for pediatric-specific testing services. About 20% of the downtown testing site’s patient population is age 25 and younger, and officials from UAB Medicine, the UAB Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Alabama hope to continue to expand testing for this group.

Nationwide, Hyundai is donating $2.2 million to support drive-thru testing centers at 11 children’s hospitals throughout the U.S.

A medical professional is wearing a medical gown, mask and gloves while standing beside a parked SUV underneath a tent at the Downtown Birmingham COVID-19 Testing Site sponsored by UAB Medicine and the Jefferson County Department of Health. (UAB)

Hyundai Hope on Wheels supports families facing pediatric cancer, and the company said the pandemic is a particular risk to children with cancer who have compromised immune systems.

Hyundai operates an auto assembly plant in Montgomery, which has been idled amid the outbreak, as have other auto assembly plants in Alabama.

Honda’s plants across the U.S. are helping out during the crisis, including its factory in Talladega County.

Honda has pledged $1 million to food banks and meal programs across North America. Plants are donating equipment, including N95 face masks, to health care providers, deploying 3D printers to manufacture visors for face shields and investigating ways to partner with companies in producing equipment.

In Tuscaloosa County, the Mercedes-Benz plant has donated N100 reusable filters, protective suits and other supplies to local hospitals, as well as $5,000 to the DCH Foundation to help with the hospital’s curbside testing process.

Mercedes is working with the Alabama Department of Commerce on ways the company or its supplier network can support making parts for the medical industry, and it is providing expertise to other manufacturers that are producing health care supplies.
The automaker hosted a LifeSouth community blood drive that received about 95 donations.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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