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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Unionized auto workers say General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler shouldn't restart production until there is sufficient testing to show it is safe to go back to work.

Why it matters: President Trump and a handful of governors are pushing to reopen the economy, while losses mount at companies whose operations are suspended. But consumers are wary about lifting stay-at-home restrictions too soon, and if worried employees don't show up either, it will be next to impossible to get America back up and running any time soon.

What's happening: Many automakers had been targeting May 4 to begin a gradual ramp up of production under strict new health safety protocols (See item 4 below). GM and Ford had not announced a date, but were expected to launch around the same time.

  • Some of those plans started to unravel late in the week as governors in manufacturing-heavy states, including Illinois and Michigan, signaled they would extend their stay-at-home orders beyond April 30.
  • Both are part of a seven-state Midwestern regional plan to reopen businesses.

The UAW wants to see more testing before plants reopen, telling companies that early May is "too soon and too risky" for its members.

  • "At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace," said UAW President Rory Gamble in a statement Thursday.
  • "We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face."

The big picture: Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, says the U.S. is "just not there yet" in terms of reaching the testing capacity needed to reopen large parts of the economy.

  • Trump told reporters Thursday that he doesn't agree with Fauci's assessment. "I think we're doing a great job on testing," the president said.
  • The number of coronavirus tests being completed daily is not enough to relax stay-at-home orders, medical experts say.
  • A number of governors said this week that there are shortages of key testing ingredients like swabs and reagents that are preventing their states from meeting demand.

Between the lines: The UAW, while smaller and less powerful than back in its heyday, still has the clout to influence industry decisions.

  • Not so for many non-union employees; if they fail to show up for work because they're afraid of getting sick, they could be out of a job.
  • It's why the coronavirus is inspiring a new labor movement to draw attention to the health risks employees face at work during the pandemic.
  • "Union representation is not just about wages and benefits. It's about the terms of work," says Kristin Dziczek, vice president of Industry, Labor & Economics at the Center for Automotive Research.

The bottom line: It could be several more weeks — or longer — until the auto industry starts up again.

Go deeper

Trump says Fauci is "wrong" about coronavirus cases surge

President Trump and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci during an April daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump called out Anthony Fauci Saturday in a comment retweeting a video of the NIAID director explaining why coronavirus cases have been surging in the U.S.

Driving the news: In the video of Friday's testimony, Fauci explained that while European countries shut 95% of their economies, the U.S. "functionally shut down only about 50%." Trump responded, "Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000.

Updated Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases across the country increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.