The latest developments in the outbreak prompted the San Francisco Bay area to issue a three-week lockdown starting March 17. As of this writing, around 273 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Bay Area, with over 12 fatalities.
In the meantime, Tesla has not yet closed its factory in Fremont, Alameda County, despite the San Francisco Bay Area lockdown. Tesla’s main US plant employs more than 10,000 workers.
A spokesperson from the California county sheriff’s office said on March 16 that the Tesla plant cannot continue to operate normally considering the situation.
“Tesla is not an essential business as defined in the Alameda County Health Order. Tesla can maintain minimum basic operations per the Alameda County Health Order,” the spokesperson added.
Under the order announced together with lockdown, “non-essential” businesses can only maintain minimum basic operations. Failure to comply is punishable by the law, either a fine and/or imprisonment.
Reports say that Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently sent an internal email to his employees this week, clarifying that employees are not “forced” to work and that he will be “personally” present at the site.
He also mentioned that those who are ill should stay at home:
“I’d like to be super clear that if you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work, I will personally be at work, but that’s just me.”
Tesla’s North American HR head Valerie Workman sent a follow-up email, stating that the factory will remain in operation despite the COVID-19 spread, as it is one of the company’s hubs where manufacturing and energy infrastructure are essential sectors:
“During this time, the federal government has directed that all National Critical Infrastructure continue to operate during this pandemic . . . People need access to transportation and energy, and we are essential to providing it.”
A couple of weeks back, Musk tweeted that the coronavirus panic was “dumb,” sparking ire among his followers.
In a more recent tweet, Musk further claimed that, in his opinion, the “danger of panic still far exceeds danger of corona.”
A high stakeholder in the international market, Musk has taken quite a questionable stance on the pandemic and many believe that more responsible behavior on his part is called for.
Musk has stayed quiet in the meanwhile, and it is yet to be seen whether they will heed the advice of the county to minimize or cease operations altogether.
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