Fremont, California – While General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai/Kia have shut down U.S. automotive manufacturing, at least in the short term, Tesla is staying open despite shelter-in-place warnings at its plant in Alameda County, California.
Six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have issued shelter-in-place warnings, urging any non-critical businesses to shutter. However, Tesla personnel officials continue to urge workers to come to work in Fremont, promising to hand out masks and take employee temperatures, according to Bloomberg News.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has urged Tesla to close, but the automaker continues to urge employees to come to the plant, saying it has received conflicting directives from different agencies. In a letter to employees, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said anyone was free to stay home but he would be coming in to work.
Musk has repeatedly played down COVID-19 concerns, tweeting articles and graphics that show the disease is not particularly fatal to younger people. Wednesday night, for example, he posted a pie chart noting that less than 1% of Italian COVID-19 deaths were from people with no pre-existing conditions and that nearly half were from people with three or more illnesses.
COVID-19 has been especially deadly to older people and people with lung problems. Health officials have urged social distancing measures to slow the spread of the virus to allow hospitals to treat the infected throughout a longer timeframe instead of getting flooding with cases as has happened in Italy and Iran.
At the same time, Musk is following GM’s lead in offering to make respirators and other needed medical devices if supplies run short during the crisis. However, he called the need for such move into question as he made the pledge.
“Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly,” Musk tweeted in response to someone urging Tesla to switch auto production to medical production. “Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?”
Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020