Tesla wants to reopen California factory, but local authorities say not yet

Tesla’s Fremont factory is located in a California county that was among the first to issue a regional “shelter-in-place” order in March in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. And the local health authorities say that their more restrictive shutdown orders prevail.

A BuzzFeed reporter tweeted a screenshot of the purported email, with the subject line, “Factory Restart!” Musk says in the message that he’d be on site “helping wherever I can” and that employees who felt “uncomfortable” coming back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic should not feel “obligated to do so.”

Related:Elon Musk wipes nearly $15 billion off Tesla’s valuation by tweeting that shares are ‘too high’

Tesla did not immediately return a request for comment. The San Francisco Chronicle reported late Wednesday that Tesla was preparing to resume production at Fremont within a week.

Musk last week railed against the nationwide shelter-in-place orders just hours after going on a similar rant on Twitter.

The status of the Fremont auto plant factory was unclear when the lockdown order affecting San Francisco Bay Area counties began in mid-March, with the plant ultimately considered a non-essential business that could only maintain basic operations.

As Tesla announced the planned shutdown for Fremont and its battery factory in New York state, Fremont police and officials were set to meet with company executives to discuss their compliance with the order.

Tesla reportedly said it was getting conflicting information about what constituted minimum operations.

The state guidelines released this week included allowing some curbside pickup for retailers, with some manufacturing reopening to support that effort. On Thursday, Bay Area health officials clarified that the state’s gradual reopening did not necessarily mean changes to the regional shelter-in-place order.

The counties will “study” the state’s guidelines, but the current local orders do not allow some of what might be allowed elsewhere, such as curbside pickup from non-essential, non-outdoor businesses, they clarified.

Local authorities did loosen some restrictions on Monday on outdoor activities and businesses such as construction and gardening, but said Thursday they are still working to find ways “to reopen more businesses and activities safely.”

“We appreciate that the Governor recognizes that California communities are impacted differently by coronavirus and can make decisions at the local level. In our current environment, if a county order differs from a state order, the more restrictive order takes precedence,” they said.

Tesla last week reported a surprise first-quarter profit, boosting the stock. In a subsequent call with analysts to discuss results, Musk veered off script to rail against the orders, calling them “fascism.”

Tesla shares rose more than 4% Friday, and were poised to end the week 16% higher. The shares have gained 233% in the past 12 months, compared with an advance of around 1.3% for the S&P 500 index. SPX, +1.40%

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