Days after Tesla reopened Fremont plant, COVID-19 reportedly found in workers

Parking lot at Tesla. May 11, 2020

Days following Tesla reopening its Fremont factory last month amid the COVID-19 pandemic, employees tested positive for the virus, the Washington Post reports.

Two employees who work at the plant’s assembly facility, which is located near the main production factory, tested positive last month. Supervisors held meetings with their teams to announce the company reported several COVID-19 cases and those affected were told to stay home, according to two employees who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

CEO Elon Musk first defied the rules in March by keeping the plant open before Tesla’s electric vehicle production was declared non-essential by local officials. In early May, Tesla sued the county and threatened to move the Palo Alto-based company out of California, accusing county health officials of overstepping federal and state coronavirus restrictions when it stopped Tesla from restarting production. 

Musk reopened the factory in defiance of Alameda County’s health order on May 11, asking that he be the one arrested if necessary. The following day, county officials agreed to let the Fremont plant, which employs about 10,000 workers, increase minimum operations while following strict social distancing guidelines.

The agreement allowing Tesla to reopen on May 18 required the company to report all positive cases to the Alameda County Public Health Department. The electric carmaker, however, started production back up a week earlier, meaning it’s possible that positive cases were never reported to the county. County spokesman Neetu Balram told The Post there were no known workplace-related cases of county residents at Tesla.

Tesla did not immediately respond to KTVU’s request for comment.

The unnamed worker who disclosed the information said there's concern regarding the lack of caution on the production line, according to The Post. He described the changes as “like nothing but with a mask on.” He added that the three people who were quarantined for fear of potential exposure have returned to work. Those who tested positive have not.

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