PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Shipyards, by the very nature of the work, require a lot of people. Hampton Roads' two largest, Newport News Shipbuilding and the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, employ more than 38,000 people between them and the work they do there is vital to national security.
Newport News is the world's only maker of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and is one of the two shipyards in the country that builds nuclear-powered submarines.
Now, a second worker there has been confirmed to have the COVID-19 virus. The first case there was announced Monday.
As a result, liberal leave for workers has been extended through the end of April.
On her Facebook page, President Jennifer Boykin wrote, "These are difficult times, and we all have tough choices to make. We will continue to do our best to offer you flexibility and options, and I will continue to be open and transparent as we learn more and make additional decisions."
Over at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, a worker who was on temporary assignment in New York State has also been tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a news release, the shipyard said, "The Navy is committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of our force. The health and safety of our shipyard workforce and community is -- and always will be -- the shipyard's top priority."
"Construction on the ships needs to continue, repairs need to continue," said retired Navy captain Joe Bouchard. "But on the other hand, all that will grind to a half if coronavirus starts to spread among the workforce."
Retired Navy Rear Admiral Craig Quigley said the yards face difficult, if not impossible, choices.
"You must take every precaution that you can to keep your workforce safe," he said, "but you've also got to get the job done on those ships and submarines because the nation's depending on it."