By Tomi Kilgore, MarketWatch
The growing optimism over the phased reopening of businesses in some states and other countries, as evidenced by the rallies in the U.S. and some international stock markets on Monday, has been only slightly tempered by continued concerns over the lack of adequate testing for the COVID-19 virus.
Georgia will allow movie theaters to reopen as of Monday, and restaurants can have limited dine-in service, after hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors were allowed to reopen on Friday. Oklahoma also allowed hair and nail salons, pet groomers and spas to reopen as of Friday. Some other states are loosening up shutdown orders to allow certain business to reopen this week.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he would like to start the “unpause” process on May 15, but will extend the pause in certain parts of the state and in certain industries. “Be smart,” he said in his daily press briefing.
This optimism helped drive the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.30% up 359 points, and the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.27% up 1.5%. See Market Snapshot.
Some disappointing results from a much-anticipated trial of a COVID-19 treatment did little to dampen investor enthusiasm, while shares of beauty salon operator Regis Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202676876/composite RGS +6.84% got a big boost from the reopening of hair salons in some states.
In Europe, shares also surged, as Italy’s lockdown is set to be eased beginning May 4, France is expected to present an exit strategy on Tuesday, and while the U.K. didn’t announce plans to end the lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work after being hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus.
The optimism comes after Vice President Mike Pence said last week that the coronavirus pandemic could largely be behind us by Memorial Day weekend. It also comes despite calls from members of the Trump administration that indicated the lack of testing — which is among the biggest concerns among health care experts — could continue for some time and social distancing will likely remain in place for months. Former Vice President Joe Biden also said there was a “massive shortfall” in testing.
When Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the Trump administration, was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday about Pence’s comments, she said that while the latest data “gives us great hope,” she expected “social distancing will be with us through the summer.”
Birx was also asked to respond to concerns over the lack of testing, she said the current form of live virus testing will “carry us certainty through the spring and summer,” but that a “breakthrough” but that wouldn’t be enough. “We have to have a breakthrough,” Birx said.
Birx’s comments are an example of the mixed messages from members of the Trump administration, which suffered a tumultuous week following suggestions by President Trump to try injecting disinfectants as a potential cure for the COVID-19 virus. That led to Trump tweeting that the daily White House briefings on the coronavirus weren’t worth the time and effort.
The White House canceled a briefing by the coronavirus task force scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern, to mark the third day without the event. But White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump will discuss coronavirus testing and “other announcments” regarding the opening up of America at news conference at 5 p.m. Eastern.
Joe Biden urges expanded testing
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, released Monday his plan to tackle the coronavirus crisis, which called for expanded testing and the formation of a public-health jobs corps. He criticized the Trump’s administration’s handling of the crisis, saying “we are still seeing a massive shortfall and extensive disparities between states in testing — that’s unacceptable.”
Last week, Trump had boasted that the believed the U.S. was doing a “great job” on testing.