Some US states roll out reopening measures amid political pressure

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Boeing and at least one other US heavy-equipment manufacturer resumed production on Monday while some states rolled out aggressive reopening plans despite ongoing coronavirus concerns.

The reopenings came amid economic gloom, as oil futures plunged below zero and stocks and Treasury yields also dropped on Wall Street.

Boeing said it was putting about 27,000 people back to work this week building passenger jets at its Seattle-area plants, with virus-slowing precautions in place, including face masks and staggered shifts.

Doosan Bobcat, a farm equipment maker and North Dakota’s largest manufacturer, announced the return of about 2,200 workers at three factories around the state.

Elsewhere around the world, step-by-step reopenings were underway in Europe, where the crisis has begun to ebb in places such as Italy, Spain and Germany.

HEALTH Coronavirus
Countries in lockdown due to coronavirus. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics

Parts of the continent are perhaps weeks ahead of the US on the infection curve of the virus, which has killed about 170,000 people worldwide, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Businesses that start operating again in the US are likely to engender good will with the White House at a time when it is doling out billions in relief to companies.

In a dispute that has turned nakedly political, President Donald Trump has been agitating to restart the economy, singling out Democratic-led states and egging on protesters who feel governors are moving too slowly.

Some states — mostly Republican-led ones — have relaxed restrictions, and on Monday announced that they would take further steps to reopen their economies.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced that gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlours were among businesses that could reopen on Friday, as long as owners followed strict social distancing and hygiene requirements.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that businesses across most of the state would begin reopening as early as next week, although the order did not cover counties with the largest cities, including Nashville and Memphis.

Republican West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said that he would allow hospitals to begin performing elective procedures if the facilities met an unspecified set of criteria.

Meanwhile Democratic Colorado Governor Jared Polis said that he would let his statewide stay-at-home order expire next week as long as strict social distancing and other individual protective measures continued.

But governors from many other states said they lacked the testing supplies they need and warned they could get hit by a second wave of infections, given how people with no symptoms can still spread the disease.

“This action isn’t about our individual right to gather. It’s about our parents’ right to live.”

Mr Trump took to Twitter to complain that the “radical left” and “Do Nothing Democrats” are “playing a very dangerous political game” by complaining about a testing shortage.

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