Tesla Bucks Shelter-in-Place Order, Says It's 'Essential'

Automaker hasn't shut down Fremont factory yet, despite Bay Area mandate
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2020 8:54 AM CDT
California to Tesla: Shut Down, You're Not Essential
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is seen in Washington on March 9, 2020.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The San Francisco Bay Area is under the "strictest measure of its kind" in the US amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, with residents forced to shelter in place at home for three weeks. Also included in the regional mandate from officials in seven California counties was an order that "nonessential businesses" temporarily close shop, but Tesla is taking issue with the meaning of the word "nonessential." Per the Verge, the company's Fremont factory didn't shut down Tuesday, the first day the order took effect, and an email from its HR department to employees explains why. "People need access to transportation and energy, and we are essential to providing it," the email read, per Electrek. "As a result, Tesla and our supplier network will continue operations that directly support factory production, vehicle deliveries, and service. If you work in these areas, you should continue to report to work."

County officials and the Alameda County Sheriff disagree. "If Tesla was a hospital, if Tesla was a laundromat, if Tesla was a mechanic shop, we wouldn't be having this conversation," a sheriff's office spokesman says, per the Mercury News. "But Tesla makes cars, and that's not essential for us to get through this health crisis." Musk himself has been dismissive of the pandemic, tweeting earlier this month that "the coronavirus panic is dumb," as well as noting to employees that he'd "personally be at work," per the Mercury News, though he added that anyone who felt ill or uncomfortable wasn't obligated to come in. In a recent email to SpaceX employees, Musk also said the risk of dying from COVID-19 "is *vastly* less than the risk of death from driving your car home." He also noted that "my frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself," per the Verge. (More coronavirus stories.)

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