Factory workers began returning to assembly lines in Michigan on Monday, paving the way for the US auto sector to reopen, but this has raised fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections as strict lockdown measures are being eased across the country.
With millions of Americans unemployed and much of the economy in a state of complete disruption, an increasing number of countries are relaxing stringent restrictions on trade and social life designed to slow the spread of the disease.
Some auto suppliers in Michigan, an industrial powerhouse in the Midwest that has been severely affected by the epidemic and its economic repercussions, reopened factories on Monday to prepare to resume vehicle production next week.
The reopening of manufacturing agreed to by Governor Gretchen Whitman last week was crucial, not just for auto makers in Michigan, but for car production elsewhere because many major parts suppliers are located in and around the Detroit auto center.
Detroit's three major automakers - General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler Fiat - said last week they were planning to reproduce at North American factories on May 18. The target was set after tacit approval from the powerful UAV union, which previously opposed a May restart.
Ohio, another industrial state and a major player in the American auto industry, reopened last week and said most retail stores would welcome customers again on Tuesday.
Pressure to ease trade restrictions is mounting under rapidly deteriorating economic prospects, as the pandemic has driven more Americans out of business than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s, prompting Congress to pass trillions of dollars in emergency relief.