Automakers help restart US industry as globe reopens further
WARREN, Mich. (AP) — More than 130,000 autoworkers returned to factories across the U.S. for the first time in nearly two months Monday in one of the biggest steps yet to restart American industry, while an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus yielded encouraging results in a small and extremely early test.
Stocks rallied on the vaccine news and signs that the worst of the crisis has passed in many countries. The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared about 900 points, or nearly 4%.
Automakers from Detroit’s Big Three — Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford — to Honda and Toyota put screening procedures in place at the dozens of factories that reopened from the Great Lakes states south to Tennessee and Texas and out west to Tesla’s factory near the San Francisco Bay. Some Detroit automakers started cranking out vehicles Monday, but it will take longer to fully restart other plants. Workers appeared reassured by the precautions.
At a Fiat Chrysler pickup truck assembly plant in Warren, outside Detroit, workers entered a giant white tent with a sign reading, “Let’s restart and keep each other safe.” They had their temperatures checked and answered questions on whether they had COVID-19 symptoms.
“I feel safer than being anywhere at any stores, because they got the screening and everything,” said Ann’alazia Moore, a janitor at the factory. “I feel like that’s amazing. That’s smart. I like that. So, I feel more safe. I won’t get sick.”
Cole Stevenson, who installs steering wheels at a Ford pickup truck plant in Dearborn, Michigan, said, “The parts of the plant where people would be closer together, they’ve put up a lot of partitions. You can tell they’ve taken tape measures to just about any surface two people would need to be near each other.”
Meanwhile, an experimental vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. triggered hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers. They were found to have antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Further studies on the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness and optimal dosage still need to be done. But with people desperate for any sign of progress, the findings caused excitement on Wall Street.
Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in the first stages of testing or nearing it. Health officials have said that if all goes well, studies might wrap up late this year or early 2021.
Despite warnings from health experts that the virus could make a resurgence, many states have eased lockdowns under pressure from President Trump to save businesses and livelihoods. U.S. unemployment surged in April to 14.7%, a level not seen since the Depression.
Health authorities will be watching for a second wave of infections and worry Americans will disregard social distancing over Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. There were already large crowds last weekend: Connecticut had to close beaches when they reached capacity under new rules, and people packed the Virginia Beach oceanfront even before restrictions were relaxed.
Deputies north of Orlando, Florida, say they were hit with cups of alcohol, bottles and bar stools after making arrests at a weekend block party with an estimated 3,000 people. Walt Disney World posted a warning about COVID-19 as it prepares to allow some third-party shops and restaurants to reopen this week.