Following a couple of contentious days in which Tesla CEO Elon Musk was loudly complaining on social media and asking to be arrested — attracting the attention of President Trump in the process — Alameda County authorities have relented and said they will allow Tesla's Fremont plant to reopen for production under a new safety plan.
Starting this week, some manufacturing was being allowed to reopen around the state as it was, and starting next week the Bay Area was supposed to start loosening some of its restrictions, at least when it comes to curbside retail. But Elon Musk did not want to wait for Alameda County's blessing and announced on Monday that he was opening the Tesla plant back up whether they liked it or not. He also filed suit against the county, and threatened to move the company headquarters to Texas or Nevada if they gave him any more guff.
"The county is making rules that directly contradict and undermine the policy announced by the governor in his orders," the lawsuit said, referring to Governor Gavin Newsom's previously announced plans to allow low-risk businesses, including some manufacturing, to reopen as of last Friday.
As of Tuesday evening, though, as the Mercury News reports, Alameda County and Tesla had come to an agreement about reopening. The county said that the company's safety plan for addressing the potential of virus spread was sufficient if it included a few updates, and production at the plant could resume.
"We reviewed the plan and held productive discussions today with Tesla’s representatives about their safety and prevention plans, including some additional safety recommendations," the county said in a statement. "If Tesla’s Prevention and Control Plan includes these updates, and the public health indicators remain stable or improve, we have agreed that Tesla can begin to augment their Minimum Business Operations this week in preparation for possible reopening as soon as next week."
The county added that it would work with the Fremont Police Department to "verify Tesla is adhering to social distancing" and all of the other safety procedures that were agreed upon.
The new procedures include daily health checks for employees, risk assessment forms for employees, designated entrances and exits, and closed gym and game-room facilities.
As KPIX reports, some Tesla employees felt caught between contradictory orders, with supervisors calling them into work on Sunday evening, and the county telling them that they should still be at home. Musk felt like he should be able to abide by federal and state guidelines that called the plant an "essential" business.
And another anonymous employee spoke to the New York Times and said not much had changed on the production line apart from workers' temperatures being taken when they arrived, face masks being distributed, and a break room got rearranged. The employee said the company was prioritizing profit over people — and indeed that has seemed to be Musk's modus operandi through this international crisis, downplaying virus data and clearly frustrated that a pandemic had interrupted Tesla's upward momentum up until March.
Six Bay Area counties have announced that they are working in concert to establish regional rules for reopening the economy that may be stricter for longer than the state at large. This is due to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic largely began here in February, and will by most estimates continue to disproportionately impact dense, urban counties. Also, even by the state's measures, several Bay Area counties continue to see hospitalizations and death rates that are not slowing fast enough to justify rapid reopening.
No doubt, arguments over the details and semantics of California's and the Bay Area's phased reopening plans will continue for the coming months, legal actions included. There seem to be far too many specific types of business situations that haven't been anticipated, and there are far too many businesses eager to reopen as their owners and employees struggle financially.
On Tuesday, Governor Newsom revealed a new document — likely still a draft — detailing some onerous and at times confusing safety guidelines for the reopening of dine-in restaurants, which is set to happen in a "Phase 2.5" for some counties. The implementation of those guidelines will be one of many major clusterfucks facing counties statewide in the next few months.