US autoworkers return, while possible coronavirus vaccine shows promise
WARREN, Mich. — 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%.
Detroit’s Big Three — Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford — as well as Honda and Toyota all had screening procedures in place at the dozens of factories that reopened from the Great Lakes states south to Tennessee and Texas and out west at Tesla’s factory near the San Francisco Bay.
No one was immediately cranking out vehicles, because it will take time to get the plants restarted. But workers appeared reassured by the precautions taken by the automakers.
At a Fiat Chrysler pickup truck assembly plant in Warren, outside Detroit, workers entered a giant white tent with a sign that read: “Let's restart and keep each other safe." Inside they had their temperatures checked and answered a set of questions on whether they had symptoms of COVID-19.
“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 against the scourge, 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 by late this year or early 2021.
Despite warnings from health experts that the virus could make a resurgence, many states have eased their lockdowns under pressure from President Donald Trump to save businesses and livelihoods. About 36 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits over the past two months, and U.S. unemployment surged in April to 14.7%, a level unseen since the Depression.
U.S. health authorities will be watching closely for a second wave of infections over the next few weeks and worry that Americans will disregard social distancing over Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. Over the past weekend, there were already large crowds. Connecticut had to close beaches before noon when they reached capacity under new restrictions.
One of California’s largest tribal casinos, Viejas Casino & Resort, near San Diego, reopened to a large crowd Monday. Customers had their temperatures taken at the door and were ordered to cover their faces, and very other slot machine was turned off to keep people separated. But the strong turnout meant many customers were still playing less than 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart.