Essential Business

South Bay Auto Dealership Cuts Off Sales After Employee Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Five dealerships close sales and finance departments; service operations remain open

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A well-known South Bay auto group has cut off sales after an employee tested positive for the Coronavirus. It highlights the difficult decisions made over what businesses should remain open and how they should operate.

One of the issues it also raises is whether a car dealership is an essential business. Many businesses have been forced to close down to prevent what has happened in this case.

Late Wednesday, the Ball Automotive Group, which operates five dealerships on the National City Mile of Cars, was informed by the county one of its employees tested positive for the Coronavirus.

By Thursday, the automotive group’s General Manager announced they had closed their sales and finance department. But leading up to that closure, Ball remained open for business.

“We’re following the guidelines set forth by the New Car Dealers Association and the county about new car sales, said Jenifer Bell, General Manager of Ball Automotive Group.

Those guidelines, supported by the state and county, allow car dealerships to stay open for appointment only, and online sales. Bell spoke with NBC7.com the day before sales were stopped.

“We are doing it through online. Appointments are made online, communication is done online through the computer. We are not allowing test drives with our employees. We are doing deliveries to people’s houses,” said Ball.

She also says social distance guidelines were followed and crews cleaned and disinfected the businesses several times daily.

But the employee that tested positive for the Coronavirus has reached out to NBC7.com with concerns that sick employees were told to come to work, putting around two dozen other employees and the public at risk.

“I have never personally told someone that they have to come in if they’re not feeling well. I actually ask them to stay home. It’s better for us because you don’t affect the rest of the employees or a customer,” said Ball.

The infected employee also claims the dealerships were open for walk-in business, and protective masks were not being worn, something Jenifer Ball strongly denies.

Ball says the company is now in the process of contacting other employees and customers who may have been in contact with the infected employee.

Meanwhile, Ball dealerships’ service departments, which is considered an essential business, remains open.

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