The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released updated guidance on March 28 for state and local communities as they consider COVID-19-related restrictions. As outlined by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the identified sectors are critical for national security, economic security, public health or safety – including critical manufacturing workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, and the defense industrial base. There are additional specific references to aluminum production and processing as “critical manufacturing” from CISA HERE.
As a reminder, CISA's guidance is not binding. State officials have ultimate authority over their jurisdictions. Many states have adopted CISA guidance, while others have taken a different approach. More details below about state activity. More information at https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19.
The President’s Coronavirus Response Guidelines for America recommends that workers in a designated critical infrastructure industry (of which aluminum is one) should maintain a normal work schedule and follow CDC guidance to maintain worker health. CISA provided a sample letter (HERE) for essential business employers to provide their employers.
The Aluminum Association joined a broad group of business associations in a letter on March 25 to urge state and local officials to incorporate CISA guidance, and we joined vehicle suppliers on March 26 in a letter to CISA to encourage clarification that vehicle suppliers are essential. Additionally, the association sent a letter to the National Governor’s Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and the National Association of Counties urging them to specifically designate aluminum industry operations and employees as “essential” and clearly exempted from any “shelter in place” orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of March 27, there is no federal guidance in Canada on critical infrastructure – but federal messaging should be issued shortly. Canada’s government is currently dealing with the critical infrastructure question like the U.S. government, at the provincial level, but Canada does have a mechanism to make any federal guidance on critical infrastructure binding using the Emergencies Act. Right now, Quebec has the most restrictive designation. Aluminum is considered critical infrastructure as a priority manufacturing activity (and is specifically mentioned in the designation) but there is language about reducing those activities to a minimum. The Mexican government’s designation of critical infrastructure is federally driven, with one decree stipulating that businesses and special establishments cannot operate with crowds.