Tesla’s Fremont Factory to Remain Open Despite Bay Area Shutdown

Elon Musk downplayed coronavirus risks, but said workers could stay home

The exterior of Tesla's Fremont factory at night
While the rest of the Bay Area goes on lockdown, Tesla's Fremont factory will remain open for now.
Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty
By Alex Lauer / March 18, 2020 7:00 am

While the U.S. is still lagging behind other countries in its response to the coronavirus outbreak, some cities are imposing their own drastic measures. At the time of writing, the Bay Area has issued “shelter-in-place” orders for seven counties, according to the Los Angeles Times, with residents advised to stay home.

Despite the order, Tesla’s electric vehicle factory in Fremont that employs roughly 10,000 workers has been labeled an “essential” business and will stay open, reports the Times. The move is drawing criticism both because the Bay Area is experiencing the highest number of Covid-19 cases in California and because it comes alongside controversial statements from Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

While Musk reportedly sent an email to Tesla employees on Monday night telling them they should not feel obligated to work if they feel “the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable,” he also wrote, according to Electrek, that “the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself” and he even estimated that “confirmed COVID-19 (this specific form of the common cold) cases will not exceed 0.1% of the US population)” despite not being a medical professional himself.

The Times asked Alameda County about the decision to exempt Tesla from the shutdown:

What’s essential about automobile manufacturing in the midst of a viral pandemic? “That’s a good question,” said spokesman Ray Kelly, promising more information would be forthcoming. “We’re in uncharted waters right now.”

We most certainly are, but for now, it looks like Tesla will be business as usual.

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