(Reuters) – Tesla Inc has not been given permission to resume operations at its vehicle factory in the San Francisco Bay area as local lockdown measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus remain in effect, a county health official said on Friday.
FILE PHOTO: A view of Tesla Inc’s U.S. vehicle factory in Fremont, California, U.S., March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
The comments came after Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, told employees in an email on Thursday evening that limited production would restart at the factory in Fremont, Tesla’s only U.S. vehicle factory, on Friday afternoon.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday afternoon said that manufacturers in the state would be allowed to reopen. But Alameda County, where the factory is located, is scheduled to remain shut until the end of May.
Erica Pan, a health officer for Alameda County, on Friday said Tesla has not been allowed to resume operations.
“We have not given the green light,” Pan said. “We have been working with them…but no, we have not said that we think that it is appropriate for them to move forward.”
Pan, who was speaking during a virtual townhall with the mayor of the city of Alameda, did not say whether health officials would intervene.
Calling Tesla a “very hot topic,” Pan said the health department has had many discussions with the company and recommended that Tesla wait at least another week to monitor infection rates and discuss safe ways to resume production.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Manufacturing operations in the Alameda County are not allowed to operate regularly, according to the county’s order.
Musk has been bluntly criticizing the lockdown and stay-at-home orders, calling them a “serious risk” to U.S. business and tagging them “unconstitutional,” saying they would not hold up before the U.S. Supreme Court if challenged.
According to an internal Tesla mail seen by Reuters, starting Friday, limited operation will resume at the Fremont factory with 30% of normal headcount per shift.
“Our Gigafactories in Nevada and New York have also begun limited operations as approved by their respective states,” the mail said.
However, Musk said employees who feel uncomfortable coming back to work were not obligated to do so.
California’s order from Thursday does not supersede the county plan, Alameda Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ray Kelly told Reuters on Thursday.
The Fremont plant shut its operations in mid-March after lockdowns were imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has infected over 3.8 million people globally.
Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York and Nathan Frandino in San Francisco; additional reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler