Finally, a wise decision about COVID-19 coming from automakers.

By the time we write this article, the US already reached 7,324 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Ten hours ago, the number was 6,496, which means an increase of 12.7 percent in less than a full day. On March 17, there were 4,661 sick people. The coronavirus infection raised 57.1 percent since we first told you Tesla was reportedly considered “essential business by the Alameda County. That gives you an idea of how urgent it is to shut factories down. The Big Three and Honda have already decided to do so. What about Tesla?

If you were expecting it to set the example – as we did – forget it. The company said in a memo to employees it was still waiting for a “final word from the City, County, State, and Federal Government” on production. According to Valerie Workman, Tesla’s HR director, it still did not close because of “conflicting guidance,” as an article from CNBC shows.

We have no idea what made Ford, GM, and FCA change their minds. Apparently, they did not receive any guidance as well, only some pressure from UAW. It may have been strong enough to convince the Detroit automakers to stop production until March 30, at least.

The worrying part is what the automakers plan to do next. Ford says it will “thoroughly clean its facilities to protect its workforce and boost containment efforts for the COVID-19 coronavirus.” Will it also clean the buses its employees take to work? All surfaces they touch on their way there? Will they screen everyone they get in touch with?

Bloomberg wrote a fantastic article that shows how these plans are not realistic. According to the text, Chinese specialists are now worried about a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections. The first wave seems to have ended with lockdown procedures. Still, new contaminations can occur until a vaccine is developed or all the 1.7 billion Chinese are naturally immune to the disease – if the virus presents no mutations, which it certainly will.

This coronavirus spreads quickly because infected people do not present symptoms right away. While they don’t, they help disseminate the virus. It also lives on surfaces for more extended periods. This seems to be what these legacy automakers and Tesla fail to understand.

 

The reassuring part is that Tesla promises employees can use their PTO – Paid Time Off – and borrow up to 80 hours to stay away, which would be equivalent to two weeks of work. They can also choose to use unpaid time off with the promise that they will not be penalized for doing that. Obviously, Tesla would never have written any penalty threats in a memo.

Apart from that, suppose some people decide to skip work for two weeks, and some don’t. If the ones that are still working get sick, they will spread COVID-19 to the people that return from their leaves. 

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Although Tesla officially claims not to have had any infection case, California is one of the most affected states, with 718 cases. That will be just a matter of time if the lockdown is not followed.

We hope Tesla receives the guidance it needs to make the right decision it cannot take on its own. It may not be an essential business, as it wanted to believe, but it is essential that it protects its workers and its community. The cars and clients can wait, as months-long reservations for the Model 3 and now the Cybertruck prove.