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Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed Monday he’s flouting county rules by reopening a Northern California plant amid concerns over safety during the coronavirus crisis, tweeting: “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
The parking lot of the Fremont, Calif., facility was full, Fox 2 reported, even as Musk and Almeda County officials continue to spar over shelter-in-place rules that have prevented the electric-vehicle giant from reopening since March 23.
Musk tweeted, “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.” He also wrote: “California approved, but an unelected county official illegally overrode. Also, all other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out. This is super messed up!”
The county later responded in a statement: “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. 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.”
At a Monday news conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he was hopeful the company could resume operations next week.
“We recognize localism, both from a county, previous questions about if a county wants to go further, and other counties that don’t want to even go as far as the state, which is the case in Alameda County,” he said. “My understanding is they have had some very constructive conversations with the folks at that facility, the county health director. They’re working to focus on the health and safety of the employees at that facility. My belief and hope and expectation is as early as next week, they will be able to resume.”
He added that “manufacturing broadly” across the state was no longer restricted, with modifications.
Newsom said he spoke with Musk several days ago about the county shelter-in-place rules. In a weekend tweetstorm, a frustrated Musk wrote that he was filing a lawsuit to halt the local restrictions and predicted relocating Tesla’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters to Texas or Nevada.
Tesla released a copy of the lawsuit hours later.
In a bid to repair the state’s fractured economy, Newsom announced last week that manufacturing facilities could be reopened. However, Tesla was informed by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency that it would have to wait until its return-to-work plan was approved, prompting outrage from Musk, who called the restrictions fascist and unconstitutional.
On Monday, a company employee told the news station Monday that he worked from 6 p.m. Sunday through 6 a.m. Monday and that Tesla was “up and running.” Under the restrictions, the company is allowed a certain level of staffing for maintenance, inventory and payroll.
Vehicles are seen parked at the Tesla plant Monday in Fremont, Calif. The parking lot was nearly full at Tesla’s California electric car factory Monday, an indication that the company could be resuming production in defiance of an order from county health authorities. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Tesla did not respond to a Fox News request for comment.
The company has outlined a series of measures it planned to institute which was based on the reopening plan for its Shanghai, China factory. The lack of production in Fremont is a big financial strain on the company. On a conference call last month, Musk called the closure of Fremont a “serious risk.”
Fox News’ Gary Gastelu and the Associated Press contributed to this report.