FREMONT—Following CEO Elon Musk’s order to re-open his Fremont Tesla factory in May against health guidelines, several Tesla workers have tested positive for the coronavirus on June 9. For privacy reasons, the exact number of employees who tested positive will not be disclosed.
Starting in March, Musk was an outspoken critic via Twitter about the shelter-in-place orders, posting criticisms about the government’s response and about the coronavirus in general. One tweet in April he called the shelter-in-place orders “de facto house arrest,” and in a March 7 tweet he wrote: “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”
In May, Musk was determined to re-open his Fremont factory in order to start production of pre-orders despite the risk of consequences for doing so. After he declared the plant would re-open on May 11, he tweeted “tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
Tesla has almost 10,000 employees at the factory in Fremont. In May, Musk got approval from Alameda County health officials to restart vehicle production early, but only under certain conditions. As part of the agreement, Tesla released a plan to maintain worker safety, such as the wearing of gloves and masks, installing barriers between workers in the factory, adhering to social distancing guidelines, and checking worker’s temperatures. In addition, the agreement with Alameda includes a provision to report all positive cases, which the company has not officially done yet.
It remains unclear whether Musk is still maintaining the conditions he agreed to. On June 15, workers held a gathering outside of the Fremont factory, demanding that Tesla publicly divulge what it knows about the employees that have tested positive, and to commit to providing and maintaining better protections for its production line workers.
Tesla hasn’t responded to a request for comment about positive cases or its workers coronavirus concerns.