Elon Musk defies coronavirus order and asks to be arrested

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that he’s reopening his company’s car factory in California in violation of a local shelter-in-place order, as The Verge previously reported. Musk said he’ll be on the company’s production line this week. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” he wrote.

Musk spent parts of the weekend railing against the order, which was put in place in mid-March by Alameda County officials in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The order restricted all but “essential businesses” from performing anything other than the most minimal operations, like processing payroll. After initially fighting the order, Tesla shut down the factory on March 23rd.

Musk has argued that the statewide stay-at-home order put in place by governor Gavin Newsom left room for Tesla’s auto manufacturing plant to remain open, and Musk had Tesla file a lawsuit against the county on Saturday in protest. On Monday, Newsom said that the state has had “very constructive conversations” with the county officials and Tesla representatives and that he hoped the company could open up “as early as next week.”

Alameda County supervisor Scott Haggerty told The New York Times this past weekend that the county and Tesla had been close to an agreement to reopen the factory on May 18th, but that was before Musk lashed out and filed the lawsuit on Saturday.

Tesla started making cars over the weekend, as The Verge reported earlier on Monday, and told all of the employees that it placed on furlough to get ready to go back to work. Those employees have been told they can stay home if they feel uncomfortable, but have to take unpaid leave in order to do so. (Tesla cashed out many employees’ paid leave after extending the furlough last month.) Other automakers like Ford and General Motors are scheduled to get their US manufacturing back up and running later this month. Some of those automakers wanted to open earlier, but faced resistance from the United Auto Workers union, which represents their workforces.

Alameda County finally responded late Monday, saying that it expects Tesla to provide a “a site-specific plan later today” for reopening the factory, and that it “look[s] forward to reviewing Tesla’s plan and coming to agreement on protocol and a timeline to reopen safely” — despite Musk already saying he would reopen the factory, and the fact that the company is already making cars.

“Today, May 11, we learned that the Tesla factory in Fremont had opened 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 county said.

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