Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the company’s factory in Fremont, California, had reopened on Monday — and said he was willing to be arrested for it.
Musk said the factory was opening “against Alameda County rules.”
“I will be on the line with everyone else,” he wrote. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
The announcement was the latest in an increasingly heated exchange between the eccentric CEO and public health officials. The drama culminated in Musk suing the county and vowing to leave the state after authorities said the factory couldn’t reopen.
Tesla reportedly told furloughed employees to return to work, according to an internal email seen by Reuters. Local news outlets reported seeing full parking lots at the facility.
Alameda Sheriff Sergeant Ray Kelly told Digital Trends that there hadn’t been any discussion of using enforcement to shut down the factory.
“We haven’t had that conversation,” he said.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Alameda County Health Services Agency said that the Tesla factory cannot go beyond “Minimum Basic Operations.”
“We have notified Tesla that they can only maintain Minimum Basic Operations until we have an approved plan that can be implemented in accordance with the local public health order,” the department said.
“We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures,” the statement continued.
#pressrelease – Public Health Updated Statement on Tesla @elonmusk @Tesla @FremontPD @Dare2BWell pic.twitter.com/oU5mSnwZKR
— Alameda County Sheriff (@ACSOSheriffs) May 11, 2020
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. We will update this story when we hear back.
At the end of March, Musk floated re-opening the factory in defiance of California’s strict shelter-in-place orders, which are still active due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In response, Alameda County officials deemed that the factory was a “non-essential business” and said that it does not qualify for an exemption to the orders. Musk fired back on Twitter over the weekend, saying that he would sue Alameda County and move car production to either Texas or Nevada if he was not allowed to work in California.
Tesla also issued 30 pages of guidelines to its employees on how to maintain proper social distance while at work and prevent the spread of the virus.
The guidelines said that anyone who felt sick should stay home, but the company did not address whether employees who stayed home would be given sick pay.
In a statement, Tesla framed the issue as one of economics, saying their personnel “rely on us and have been out of work for weeks.” Tesla also argued that vehicle manufacturing would qualify as “national critical infrastructure,” in defiance of what California has ruled.