Tesla has restarted vehicles production at its Fremont, California plant in spite of the ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic. Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the company has restarted its California factory in violation of local government’s lockdown orders. Musk remarked that he’ll be on the company’s production line this week. He tweeted “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
A statement posted by Tesla on its website says, “The Company has resumed operations. However, the statement did not clarify the fact that when the manufacturing at the site would begin. The statement further remarked “Our employees are excited to get back to work, and we’re doing so with their health and safety in mind.”
Tesla has issued a statement saying that the company has put in place a set of safety measures to protect workers which included increased cleaning, social distancing, and providing face masks and gloves where ever needed. In the statement, it also said that the company will install barriers between workers wherever it is necessary. The workers will have to go through all the safety measures and temperature checks at various locations in the production facility.
Alameda County Public Health Department, considered the factory a nonessential business that cannot open under the pandemic restrictions as per the rules. The department has cautioned the company that if it starts operations it will be violating the health order enforced by the County Health Department, and it also hoped Tesla will comply with the order until the government approves a site-specific plan.
Erica Pan, a health office of County Public Health Department, considered the plant to be a health risk, as per reports received from California public-records.
In spite of many requests Tesla executives did not immediately respond to the media for a comment.
The County Public Health Department further said that despite the defiance by Tesla it will be working with the company to develop a safety plan to allow its Fremont plant to reopen.
The department is waiting for Tesla to submit this plan. A statement issued by the Public Health Department said “We are looking forward to review Tesla’s plan and come to an agreement on protocol and timeline to reopen safely.” The statement also said, “Tesla will only reopen after considering the protection of health of thousands of employees who travel for work to the factory.”
Geneva Bosques, Fremont police also said that officers would take action against Tesla at the direction of the county’s health officer if any rules are defied by the company. As per rules, The State Law can enforce a fine of up to USD 1,000 a day or up to 90 days of jail term for starting operations and violating health orders.
Tesla has been calling back workers who were on furlough last month. Senior executives of Tesla emailed workers asking them to reply and confirm details on their plan to show up for work.
The massive factory which defied orders employs about 10,000 workers. The plant will be risking the life of more than 230,000 residents of Fremont city if it reports a case of the virus after starting operations.
The Fremont facility is Tesla’s only US vehicle assembly plant, and the company would lose production revenue if the plant is shut. Tesla’s move came after competing automakers in other parts of US started reopening factories. Tesla is facing the brunt as it is the only major automaker that has a production unit in California whereas Toyota, General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler that are not located in California and are operating from the other parts of the state have been allowed to start functioning gradually by May 18. Tesla said that it would be difficult and expensive for the company to shift production from Fremont to any other place in the US.
CEO Elon Musk is arguing that the statewide stay-at-home order left room for Tesla’s auto manufacturing plant to remain open and has sued the County over not allowing the company to function. However, Alameda County Sheriff Sgt. Ray Kelly said he didn’t know if Tesla has reopened and that this is in the attorney phase.
Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing unit has been shut since March 23rd, after Alameda County Public Health Department issued preliminary stay-home order like other countries. Some days after the preliminary order the governor of California also issued a statewide lockdown order.