Elon Musk reopened his Tesla factory on Monday, defying the local health department’s orders to remain closed, ABC News reported. Located south of San Francisco, the plant had been deemed “non-essential” and shut down on March 23.
“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,” Musk tweeted on Monday.
Violating the health order is punishable by a $1,000 fine for each day of non-compliance, as well as a potential 90-day jail sentence. Fremont police had stated in the ABC News report that they would only take action based on direction from the health department.
The parking lot was nearly full as production resumed on May 11, and semi-trucks loaded with assembled cars were seen at the plant. The 10,000 factory workers have new social distancing measures in place to enhance their safety. Workers will now be wearing gloves and masks, and will have their temperatures taken before boarding the factory bus.
This restarting of production comes after Musk sued Alameda County to overturn the order. In the lawsuit, Tesla maintains that Alameda County cannot be more restrictive than the State of California and that the factory should be able to resume production. Tesla’s suit goes on to argue that Gov. Gavin Newsom has deemed vehicle manufacturing as “essential,” and therefore, Tesla should be able to continue operation.
County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who represents the city of Fremont, had been working with Tesla — and the health department — for weeks in hopes of reopening the plant. They were striving for a May 18 reopening date. However, he suspects that Musk wanted to get to work sooner, per the ABC News report.
Musk had previously threatened to move the factory out of Alameda County — a notion that had several other states courting Tesla, including Nevada and Texas. For now, Tesla is still in California, but Musk has stated that this could change based on how Fremont treats them. The Alameda County plant is Tesla’s only vehicle assembly plant in the U.S., and it would be costly to move the operation.
When the pandemic began, Musk received praise from Gov. Newsom, who frequently cited Musk’s donation of 1,000 ventilators in his speeches — although the state wasn’t sure if it had received the gift several weeks later. Musk disputed the claim and took to Twitter to show thank you notes he had received for the supplies.
Alameda County, along with five other counties, was the first in the country to impose stay-in-place orders in mid-March.