Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk told employees to come to work only if they are comfortable doing so, signaling that the company’s auto plant in Fremont, Calif., will likely stay open amid growing concern over the coronavirus outbreak.
“First, 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,” Musk wrote to staff in an email seen by Bloomberg News. “I will personally be at work, but that’s just me. Totally ok if you want to stay home for any reason.”
Tesla representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk’s email did not detail if workers who want to stay home will be paid.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus in the San Francisco Bay Area prompted several counties to announce measures for people to stay at home as much as possible and shutter all but non-essential businesses. Tesla is one of the largest employers in Alameda County, which reported 18 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Monday.
Businesses in Alameda County are required to “cease all non-essential operations” at physical locations there. The Alameda County Department of Public Health referred inquiries back to Tesla.
Citing a county spokesman, the Los Angeles Times said Alameda county had declared Tesla an "essential business" that is allowed to remain in operation, Reuters reported.
Musk has told his millions of Twitter followers that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.” The electric carmaker has said little publicly about how it’s handling the coronavirus, in contrast to other automakers and Silicon Valley’s leading technology companies.
But the company has some experience to rely on: its Chinese factory near Shanghai was temporarily shuttered earlier this year and is now back online.
“My frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself,” Musk wrote in the email on Monday. “If there is a massive redirection of medical resources out of proportion to the danger, it will result in less available care to those with critical medical needs, which does not serve the greater good.”
Tesla has not said how many cars it expects to produce and deliver in the first quarter. In January, the company said that “deliveries should comfortably exceed 500,000 units” for 2020. That number is now in question as consumers pull back on discretionary spending amid widespread economic uncertainty.