Health officers for Alameda County and six other San Francisco Bay area municipalities decided in late April to extend their restrictions on businesses through the end of May. While Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week he would let manufacturers in parts of the state reopen starting May 8, he also said local authorities could keep stricter measures in place.
Overnight, Musk sent an email to employees: “Just wanted to send you a note of appreciation for working hard to make Tesla successful. It is so cool seeing the factory come back to life and you are making it happen!!” he wrote in the message seen by Bloomberg News.
When asked on Twitter how Monday went at the factory, Musk replied Tuesday: “Great."
Two workers who have returned to work at the plant said they were required to watch a safety-training video. One said the company handed out masks and had put up plexiglass stations in the break room. Another said plastic curtains hang from the ceiling as barriers to keep workers separated from one another, and that the carmaker is taking employees’ temperature using thermal scanners.
Musk’s emailed words of encouragement to staff followed tweets in which he claimed Tesla would move its headquarters and future programs to Nevada or Texas and may even cease manufacturing in California. To follow through on those threats, the CEO would have to uproot many of the roughly 20,000 employees the carmaker has in the San Francisco Bay area. About half of the company’s headcount is at the factory.
He wrote Saturday that Tesla would decide whether to keep manufacturing in Fremont based on how Tesla is treated in the future.
After prevailing in a defamation suit and emerging mostly unscathed from a court fight with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year, Musk is waging another legal battle. This time, he’s tangling with health officials over measures to contain a virus that he downplayed starting in January.
Musk has claimed COVID-19 isn’t all that viral a disease, called panic about it “dumb” and theorized fatality rates are overstated. He’s also promoted the antimalarial drugs President Donald Trump embraced that haven’t proved effective and wrongly predicted that new cases would be close to zero by the end of April.
Tesla sent Alameda a new plan for meeting criteria to reopen on Monday, and the county is in the process of reviewing it, a spokesperson said Tuesday. In a statement Monday, Alameda said the Fremont plant was operating beyond what was allowed and that it hoped the company would “comply without further enforcement measures.”