AU­TOWORK­ERS RE­TURN

Busi­nesses con­tinue to open, a new vac­cine shows more promise

Times Standard (Eureka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Colleen Long, Tom Kr­isher and Mike House­holder

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.

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.”

Detroit’s Big Three — Fiat Chrysler, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Ford — as well as Honda and Toy­ota all had screen­ing pro­ce­dures in place at 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.

But no one was im­me­di­ately crank­ing out ve­hi­cles, be­cause it will take time to get the plants restarted.

Many work­ers were afraid of get­ting the virus but be­lieved the au­tomak­ers were try­ing to keep them safe.

“The parts of the plant where peo­ple would be closer to­gether, they’ve put up a lot of par­ti­tions,” said Cole Stevenson, who in­stalls steer­ing wheels at a Ford pickup truck plant in Dear­born, Michi­gan. “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, Mas­sachusetts­based 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 stocks ral­lied on the news 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 the Me­mo­rial Day week­end, the un­of­fi­cial start of sum­mer. Over the past week­end, there were al­ready signs of large crowds. Con­necti­cut had to close beaches be­fore noon when they reached ca­pac­ity un­der new re­stric­tions.

Else­where around the world, Europe pushed ahead with its re­open­ing, al­low­ing peo­ple into the Acrop­o­lis in Athens, high­fash­ion 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 315,000 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 from most of its mem­ber states 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, made at WHO’s an­nual meet­ing, came af­ter a watch­dog body found pos­si­ble short­com­ings in the agency’s warn­ing sys­tem and its role in pro­vid­ing travel ad­vice to coun­tries.

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping de­fended China’s record, say­ing the coun­try pro­vided all rel­e­vant out­break data to WHO and other coun­tries, in­clud­ing the virus’s ge­netic se­quence, “in a most timely fash­ion.” He also an­nounced that China will give $2 bil­lion to the global fight against the virus.

PAUL SANCYA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

United Auto Work­ers mem­bers leave the Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles War­ren Truck Plant af­ter the first work shift on Mon­day in War­ren, Mich.

ERIC GAY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Signs di­rected at Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott hang on a pub be­hind work­ers in Austin, Texas.

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