By opening up Tesla's Fremont factory on Monday, against orders not to do so, Elon Musk forced a staring contest with the Alameda County Public Health Department and it appears that they just blinked.
According to SFGate, Tesla will be allowed to go beyond basic operations and resume vehicle manufacturing vehicles as of Monday, May 18th. Tesla must, however, adhere to strict worker safety precautions that they have already agreed to follow. The safety plan was submitted to the county on Monday and outlines Tesla's blueprint to protect worker safety.
To recap the events that have led to today's decision, Tesla's Fremont factory has been closed to all activity beyond basic operations to maintain the facility due to COVID-19 since March 23rd. Last week California's Governor, Gavin Newsom, gave the green light to manufacturers to reopen their operations.
However, an interim official at the Alameda County Public Health Department decided that Tesla's Fremont factory was to remain closed. In response, Elon Musk promptly sued Alameda County and threatened to leave California.
Musk then announced he was opening the Fremont factory up on Monday, May 11th, and that he would be there working alongside his employees. Furthermore, he asked that if anyone had to be arrested for defying the order to remain closed, that he be the only person arrested. Not that he would have any control over that.
This led to a firestorm of pro and anti-Musk comments from the media as well as from many other public officials, like former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich who got into a Twitter war with Elon until Musk blocked him on the platform.
President Trump even weighed in on the fight yesterday, offering his support for allowing Tesla to resume Fremont production immediately. This is not surprising as the President has been stepping up his calling for business to resume across the country in the past few days.
The reopening announcement by the Alameda County Public Health Department comes with the clause that public health indicators have to remain stable or improve in order for Fremont to be allowed to stay open.
“We will be working with the Fremont PD to verify Tesla is adhering to physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their workers as they prepare for full production,”
There's currently no indication that Tesla will be fined for opening Fremont early, and to our knowledge, there have been no arrests or penalties imposed. If that remains to hold true, it looks like Tesla has won this battle, and forced the County to allow them to open earlier than the Health Department wanted.
We'll stay on top of this story as it progresses. Hopefully, the measures taken by the automaker are robust enough to ensure worker safety, and Tesla doesn't regret forcing a reopening earlier than some have said is wise.