Elon Musk Defies Lockdown Orders and Reopens Tesla's Factory

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has restarted the company’s California assembly plant, in defiance of local government orders, and offered to be arrested as part of an extraordinary showdown. He even told law enforcement where to find him.“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” Musk tweeted Monday afternoon. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”The plant reopening caps days of very public tussling with public officials, including a lawsuit that aims to override local lockdown orders. At one point, Musk said he plans to move Tesla’s headquarters out of California.Tesla filed the lawsuit against Alameda County, home to the factory, on Saturday in federal court in the Northern District of California. It alleges the county is violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses, and asks the court to give the company the ability to operate despite local orders. Musk also tweeted that he doesn’t believe county health officials have the authority to keep his factory closed. Before the court could rule, Musk on Monday took matters into his own hands.
California on Friday began to ease shelter-in-place restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Bay Area has maintained many of its restrictions. In a statement, Alameda County Public Health Department spokesperson Neetu Balram said the department was aware Tesla had restarted production, but that it hoped the company would comply with public health orders “without further enforcement measures.” Balram said Tesla was due to submit a site-specific plan to reopen on Monday.Fremont’s police department is in charge of enforcing shelter-in-place orders. Spokesperson Geneva Bosques said the department is aware of reports that Tesla had reopened the factory, but added, “We are not at the factory.” Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
Musk has been skeptical of the risks of Covid-19 and critical of California officials’ response. In March he tweeted that “coronavirus panic is dumb” and predicted that US cases would “negligible” by the end of April. (They were not.) On an earnings call with investors last month, he called state and local shelter-in-place orders “fascist.”Some local officials, including Fremont mayor Lily Mei, appeared sympathetic to Musk. “The city encourages the county to engage with our local businesses to come up with acceptable guidelines for re-opening our local economy,” Mei wrote in a statement over the weekend.