As more Americans emerge from lockdown, virus vaccine potential lifts markets

By Maria Caspani and Rajesh Kumar Singh NEW YORK (Reuters) - The phased reopening of U.S.

Reuters May 19, 2020 01:12:31 IST
As more Americans emerge from lockdown, virus vaccine potential lifts markets

As more Americans emerge from lockdown virus vaccine potential lifts markets

By Maria Caspani and Rajesh Kumar Singh

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The phased reopening of U.S. business and social life gained traction on Monday with more Americans emerging from coronavirus lockdowns and stock markets rising on early test results of a potential vaccine.

Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine, the first tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, boosting company shares 20% in mid-morning trade and pushing the stock market up 3%.

Martin Bermudez, 48, and Jorge Miranda, 61, enjoyed ham and cheese omelets on Monday morning when Miami's Luis Galindo's Latin America cafe welcomed diners back for table service after more than two months of only takeout.

"We need to get the economy going again, people are either out of money, or will be very soon," Bermudez said. "It's going to be a process, though, and people need to be responsible."

Although nearly all 50 states are reopening, only 13 had met federal government guidelines for lifting measures as of Sunday, according to a Reuters analysis, raising concerns that infections and deaths could surge anew.

The pandemic has afflicted the United States more than any other country, with more than 1.5 million infections and nearly 90,000 deaths.

New York, the U.S. state with the most deaths at 27,400, was showing more signs of containing the spread. The three-day rolling average of hospitalizations declined and the number of fatalities dropped to 106 on Sunday versus 139 on Saturday.

With the Major League Baseball season postponed for weeks and the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League in hiatus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wanted teams to begin playing again without fans in attendance.

Cuomo also said the western corner of the state, including Niagara Falls, would become the sixth of New York's 10 regions to start reopening on Tuesday.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, health directors in five counties said manufacturing and retail with curbside pickup and warehouse distribution could reopen.

ASSEMBLY LINES

In the Midwest, the U.S. auto industry slowly returned to life after a two-month lockdown. The Detroit Three automakers and their suppliers began restarting assembly lines in a sector that employs nearly 1 million people.

Hundreds of workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobile's (FCA) truck plant in Warren, Michigan, began lining up before 4 a.m. on a chilly morning to start the early shift. Signs overhead read: "Let's restart."

"I'm a little nervous," said Larry Smith, 53, of New Baltimore, who works on wheel alignment away from the assembly line. "They made all the precautions (and) they've done everything they can to prepare us ... I'm trusting in God."

The auto industry is considered a test case to see whether workers across a range of U.S. industries can return to factories without an increase in infections.

Offices and gyms in Texas were allowed to reopen on Monday at 25% capacity. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, was expected to announce more openings later on Monday.

Abbott's easing of restrictions coincided with the state's highest daily death total - 50 - last Thursday. But Texas remains one of the states least affected, with just 5 deaths per 100,000 people, according to a Reuters tally.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said on Monday that a spike in cases reported in Texas over the weekend was likely a result of the reopening of parts of the state's economy at the beginning of May.

"These things sort of lag - the decision is made and then you don't see the result in the cases until a couple weeks later," Johnson told CNN.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio repeated at his daily briefing that the "first half of June" will be the first opportunity to relax restrictions on non-essential businesses and social life in the city of more than 8 million people.

Protesters chafing at restrictions have made their voices heard in various parts of the country, sometimes encouraged by President Donald Trump, a Republican eager to jumpstart the economy as he seeks re-election in November.

"REOPEN OUR COUNTRY!" Trump wrote in a Twitter post on Monday and "TRANSITION TO GREATNESS."

One gym in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania were drawing attention for defying state shutdown orders. But the owners of both said in Facebook posts that they would impose safety measures such as disinfection and limiting capacity.

Bellmawr, New Jersey, Atilis Gym owner Ian Smith had described the shutdown order as a "gross violation of constitutional rights" before reopening on Monday.

When the gym reopened its doors for members, a crowd of supporters chanted, "USA! USA!" and waved American flags and Trump 2020 banners.

Jess Coates, owner of Transcend Fitness Club in Newtown, Pennsylvania said on Facebook that "continuing the closure of the club dramatically increases the reality of having to close the business."

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Frank McGurty and Howard Goller)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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