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National
Automakers help restart US industry as globe reopens further
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Automakers help restart US industry as globe reopens further

Automakers help restart US industry as globe reopens further
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
United Auto Workers members leave the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Warren Truck Plant after the first work shift, Monday, May 18, 2020, in Warren, Mich. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV along with rivals Ford and General Motors Co., restarted the assembly lines on Monday after several week of inactivity due to the corona virus pandemic. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Automakers help restart US industry as globe reopens further

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%.

In a surprise announcement, President Donald Trump said he's been taking a malaria drug to protect against the virus even though his own administration has warned it should only be administered in a hospital or research setting because of potentially fatal side effects.

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.

The malaria drug that Trump says he's been taking daily “for about a week and a half now” has not been shown to combat the coronavirus.

“I started taking it, because I think it’s good,” Trump said. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”

Despite warnings from health experts that the virus could make a resurgence, many states have eased lockdowns under pressure from 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.

Bars, day cares and zoos were the latest parts of Texas' economy to reopen with social distancing measures. By June, summer camps and youth sports will be allowed in the second-most-populated state.

One of California’s largest tribal casinos reopened with customers getting their temperatures taken and being ordered to cover their faces, while every other slot machine was turned off to keep people separated. A large turnout meant many were still playing less than 6 feet (2 meters) apart.

Ronda McLauchlan lined up at 7:30 a.m. before going to work as a painting contractor because “it’s all about freedom.”

Europe also has pushed ahead with reopening, allowing people into the Acropolis in Athens, high-fashion boutiques in Italy, museums in Belgium, golf courses in Ireland and beer gardens in Bavaria.

More than 4.7 million people worldwide have tested positive for the virus and over 318,000 deaths have been recorded, including about 90,000 in the U.S. and over 160,000 in Europe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Those figures are believed to understate the true dimensions of the outbreak because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments.

In other developments, the World Health Organization bowed to calls to launch an independent investigation into how it responded to the coronavirus. Trump has repeatedly attacked both WHO and China, claiming the U.N. agency helped Beijing conceal the extent of the outbreak in its early stages.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the probe will take place “at the earliest appropriate moment." The announcement at WHO's annual meeting came after a watchdog body found possible shortcomings in the agency’s warning system.

Chinese President Xi Jinping defended China’s record, saying it provided all relevant outbreak data to WHO and other countries, including the virus’s genetic sequence, “in a most timely fashion.”

With new infections and deaths slowing considerably in Europe, many countries are preparing to reopen their borders and trying to draw up rules for a highly unusual summer tourist season.

“This vacation this year won’t be like the ones we know from the past,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told ZDF television. “The pandemic is still there, and we must at least have safety precautions for the worst case that the figures get worse again.”

Churches in Italy and at the Vatican resumed public Masses. Guards in hazmat suits took the temperatures of those entering St. Peter’s Basilica, where Pope Francis celebrated a Mass in a side chapel to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. John Paul II.

Turkey's president announced a four-day curfew during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The country has opted to impose short weekend and holiday curfews, instead of full lockdowns, fearing damage to the already troubled economy.

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Long reported from Washington, Krisher from Detroit. Associated Press writers around the world contributed.

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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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This story has been corrected to show that some Detroit automakers began producing vehicles Monday.

Read More
  • The White House on Sunday added Brazil to the list of nations where foreign nationals are not allowed entry into the United States, in another bid to use travel restrictions to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. 'As of May 23, 2020, Brazil had 310,087 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world,' said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a statement.  'Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,' she added. The new rules apply not only to Brazilians, but also any other non-U.S. citizen who has been in the South American nation. The changes will take place late this week. The decision comes as the virus outbreak has been spreading in Brazil, which is now seen as the third worst in the world, behind the U.S. and Russia. Last week, President Trump had hinted at such a move. 'I don't want people coming in here and infecting our people,' the President told reporters when asked about a possible move to slow travel with Brazil. 'Brazil is having some trouble. No question about it,' Mr. Trump added on May 19. The designation of Brazil adds that nation to a list of travel restrictions because of the Coronavirus which includes the United Kingdom, most countries in mainland Europe, and China.
  • As the official start of summer approaches, more people are spending time outside to take advantage of the good weather -- and to enjoy time outside of their homes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Many stores and businesses are still closed as they adjust to safety protocols and social distancing guidelines. While many pest control companies have seen an uptick in people wanting help dealing with mosquitoes, the World Health Organization say there is no evidence that confirms mosquitoes can transmit COVID-19. “The new coronavirus cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites,” the WHO said. The organization’s commentary on the spread of the virus as it relates to mosquitoes is as follows: “To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said that there is no data to suggest that this new coronavirus or other similar coronaviruses are spread by mosquitoes or ticks. “The main way that COVID-19 spreads is from person to person,” the organization said.
  • Some health care workers are working overtime right now and focused on COVID-19, but it’s left other areas of hospitals almost empty. People who need emergency care for issues not related to the coronavirus are avoiding the emergency room because they don’t want to bother the doctors, WSOC-TV reported. “Several patients have said to us, ‘I didn’t want to inconvenience you,’” Dr. David Pearson, an emergency room physician with Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the news station. Patients who suffer from heart attacks, strokes, car accidents and trauma still need to see a doctor. “I think people believe that the emergency department is over capacity and that they’re going to have to wait and not be seen, and that is not the case,' Pearson said. Physicians have seen a delay in patients coming in. Pearson said waiting means patients are risking their health and waiting reduces treatment options. “There’s interventions that we can do early on that are going to result in a better outcome for patients,' he said. Pearson said now is not the time to try to wait out symptoms or gamble with one’s health. “Please, please, please if you are feeling any symptoms that you think are potentially serious, come to the emergency department,” Pearson said.
  • A new study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention finds about 35% of COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t show any signs or symptoms. Dr. Steve Threlkeld is an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. He said unlike the flu, it’s hard to tell how the coronavirus infection spreads if someone is asymptomatic. “So, it is indeed important because you can’t know when you are standing next to someone who can give you the infection,” Threlkeld told WHBQ-TV. That’s why the CDC suggested people wear a mask to protect themselves and other people from getting the virus especially anyone with preexisting health conditions or the elderly. “We’ve seen that the viral load, the amount of virus someone has in their lungs and nose and spray out at you, can be highest early on just as they are becoming symptomatic,” Threlkeld told WHBQ-TV. “Even if they do, it’s a little more difficult to know people who are totally asymptomatic and what their viral load kinetics are.” Jails and prisons, where many inmates have been asymptomatic, have seen notable outbreaks of COVID-19. WHBQ-TV also reported on a story of a family of nine from Drummonds, Tennessee, that tested positive for the virus after Easter dinner. Five of the relatives were asymptomatic and some family members wound up in the hospital. Threlkeld said that’s why social distancing, washing your hands and other safety measures are important. “The asymptomatic people have become a very important part of this infection, so it is indeed important because you can’t know when you are next to someone who can give you the infection,” Threlkeld said.
  • Oklahoma State Senator Allison Ikley-Freeman was involved in a car crash after her car hydroplaned on the Turner Turnpike near Stroud this morning, according to a report from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. State Democratic leaders say she was on her way back to the Capitol for session. Troopers say that when it left the roadway, Ikley-Freeman's Honda CRV struck a Chevy Camaro that had also hydroplaned and had come to rest in a ditch on the side of the highway. The driver of the Camaro, 44-year-old Enrique Lopez was killed. The OHP report says he was uninjured before his vehicle was hit by Ikely-Freeman's vehicle. The report goes on to say that Ikley-Freeman was pinned in her vehicle for about 40 minutes. She was taken to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City where she was treated and later released, the report states. The report says there was heavy rain at the time of the crash and that the cause of collision was speeds unsafe for weather conditions.

Washington Insider

  • The White House on Sunday added Brazil to the list of nations where foreign nationals are not allowed entry into the United States, in another bid to use travel restrictions to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. 'As of May 23, 2020, Brazil had 310,087 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world,' said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a statement.  'Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,' she added. The new rules apply not only to Brazilians, but also any other non-U.S. citizen who has been in the South American nation. The changes will take place late this week. The decision comes as the virus outbreak has been spreading in Brazil, which is now seen as the third worst in the world, behind the U.S. and Russia. Last week, President Trump had hinted at such a move. 'I don't want people coming in here and infecting our people,' the President told reporters when asked about a possible move to slow travel with Brazil. 'Brazil is having some trouble. No question about it,' Mr. Trump added on May 19. The designation of Brazil adds that nation to a list of travel restrictions because of the Coronavirus which includes the United Kingdom, most countries in mainland Europe, and China.
  • Pressing states to swiftly drop their restrictions related to the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Friday declared that houses of worship were 'essential' to communities, calling on governors to immediately allow religious gatherings this weekend, ending weeks of restrictions due to the threat of the Coronavirus. In a hastily called statement in the White House Briefing Room, the President said religious services are needed to 'help hold our society together.' 'Many millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life,' President Trump told reporters.  'We want our places of faith, our synagogues, we want them open,' Mr. Trump declared. “Today I am identifying houses of worship - churches, synagogues and mosques - as essential places that provide essential services,” the President told reporters. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” Mr. Trump added. GOP lawmakers in Congress praised the President's call. 'This is the correct decision,' said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), 'churches and other houses of worship are an important part of the fabric of American life.' 'Churches and other houses of worship are an essential part of any free and healthy democracy,' said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). But churches and religious meetings have been a stubborn source of Coronavirus infections all across the nation, prompting states to bar such gatherings. Earlier this month on Mother's Day, a church in northern California defied authorities and held a gathering for 180 people.  The next day, one attendee tested positive for the virus. In another California case, several people came down with the virus, after working as part of skeleton crew to live stream Mother's Day church services.
  • Pushing on states to loosen Coronavirus limits on business, schools, and restaurants, President Donald Trump on Thursday escalated warnings from his administration about re-opening churches, accusing Democratic Governors of standing in the way of religious liberty. 'One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open,' the President told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before going to Michigan. 'The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of Democrat Governors,' President Trump said. 'I want to get our churches open.' The President's remarks amplified growing calls among Republicans for virus restrictions to be dropped on churches, part of a broader GOP argument against Democrats over how the Coronavirus has been dealt with. Mr. Trump's comments also come as the Centers for Disease has yet to issue guidelines about how churches should deal with the Coronavirus re-opening, amid press reports that the White House has rejected the idea of limits on church activities. The President's statement to reporters came two days after the Justice Department warned the state of California its Coronavirus rules might be discriminating against churches. 'Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,' read part of a three page letter from the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division. But even with highly restricted church operations in California, there have been Coronavirus infections. In northern California, a Mother's Day church service earlier this month - live streamed to parishioners by a skeleton crew at a church - resulted in three people being infected by the Coronavirus. And in another Mother's Day church service - this time a gathering of some 180 people north of Sacramento - one person who attended tested positive for the virus the next day. Earlier this week, the CDC issued a review of a Coronavirus cluster outbreak at a church in Arkansas, where the pastor and his wife seemingly spurred dozens of cases, which also spread to the larger community. Of the 92 people who attended church events with those two, at least 35 were infected, and three ended up dying. 'Churches should open when it is safe to do so,' wrote Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, and editor of America Magazine. 'Churches should open when public health officials, who know more about epidemiology than church leaders do, conclude that it is safe to do so,' Martin wrote, responding to President Trump's remarks on Thursday.
  • While NASA officials have urged the public not to mass near the Kennedy Space Center for next week's manned test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft because of Coronavirus concerns, President Donald Trump indicated Thursday he may be ready for a VIP visit. 'I'm thinking about going, that will be next week, to the rocket launch,' the President told reporters before leaving for a day trip to Michigan. The test flight, which would be the first manned space flight launched from the U.S. in almost nine years, is set for May 27. Mr. Trump playfully jabbed at reporters about a possible visit to the launch. 'I hope you're all going to join me. I'd like to put you on the rocket, get rid of you for a while,' the President said. A possible trip to Florida next week comes as President Trump presses states to drop their Coronavirus restrictions, and allow shuttered businesses to re-open. Mr. Trump has been traveling more frequently in recent weeks, going to Michigan on Thursday, Pennsylvania last week, and Arizona earlier this month. The White House has indicated Mr. Trump will go to Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Monday to celebrate Memorial Day. But that does not mean local political dignitaries will be on hand. President Trump also indicated on Thursday that the meeting of the G7 nations would be held next month despite the virus, possibly split between Washington and Camp David.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court edged closer to possible oral arguments on whether secret grand jury materials gathered during the Russia investigation should be shared with committees in Congress, putting on hold an order from lower courts for the feds to turn over those materials. In an order issued Wednesday afternoon, the Justices invited the feds to ask the High Court to accept the case for review, giving the Justice Department a June 1 deadline to submit a writ of certiorari. If the Justices were to accept the case, arguments would not take place until the fall, possibly right around the November elections. In March, a three judge panel of the D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Democrats in Congress, saying lawmakers have the right to go through the materials gathered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators. 'Because the Department of Justice is simply the custodian of the grand jury materials at issue however, the instant case is unlike inter-branch disputes where Congress issued subpoenas and directed Executive Branch officials to testify and produce their relevant documents,' wrote Judge Judith Rogers in the 2-1 decision.