Elon Musk Lashes Out at Officials Keeping Tesla Plant Closed Over Virus

Elon Musk lashed out on Saturday at California health officials who have not yet cleared Tesla, his electric car company, to restart production at its plant in Fremont, saying he would move the company’s headquarters to Texas or Nevada.

On Friday, health officials from Alameda County told Tesla it was not yet allowed to resume operations in Fremont because of fears that the coronavirus will spread among the company’s workers. Manufacturers have been allowed to restart work in other parts of the state that have had small outbreaks of the virus.

“Frankly, this is the final straw,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter. “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will depend on how Tesla is treated in the future.”

In a separate tweet, Mr. Musk said Tesla would file a lawsuit against Alameda County.

“The unelected & ignorant ‘interim Health Officer’ of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense.”

Mr. Musk has issued several strident calls to reopen the Fremont plant. After it was closed last month, he tried to keep the plant open but was forced by local officials to shut it down. In a conference call this past week to report Tesla’s earnings, he called the order “fascist.”

Mr. Musk has also underestimated the severity of the virus. In January, he said the coronavirus “would be no worse than the common cold.”

He is eager to get the plant running again because it produces almost all of the vehicles the company sells, and Tesla is unable to generate much revenue while it remains closed. A new, second plant in Shanghai reopened this year after Chinese officials eased restrictions on business activity. The Fremont plant has been closed since late March.

Late on Thursday, Mr. Musk told Tesla employees the Fremont plant would open on Friday. The message was sent after Gov. Gavin Newsom said manufacturing companies could resume operations even as other businesses are to stay closed in the pandemic.

But a coalition of health officials from six counties in the Bay Area and the city of Berkeley have not yet gone that far in their most recent order, which was issued May 4.

That order allowed construction, landscaping, agricultural and other outdoor businesses to resume operations, but said that restaurants, bars or other indoor businesses “that do not permit physical distancing or have high-touch equipment” must remain closed.

“Tesla has been informed that they do not meet these criteria and must not reopen,” a spokeswoman for Alameda County, Neetu Balram, said in a statement.

When state and local orders differ, “everyone must follow the stricter restrictions,” the May 4 order said.

Alameda County has reported 1,961 coronavirus cases and 70 deaths from the disease.

Other automakers are planning to resume production soon. Toyota expects its plants to reopen on May 11. General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler have all said they intend to start production May 18.

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