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California county says Tesla’s plant isn’t cleared to reopen

Tesla is planning to reopen its factory in Fremont, California, on Friday despite shelter-in-place rules that are still in effect — and apparently without approval to restart production from local officials, according to news reports.

Tesla Gigafactory

Erica Pan, interim health officer for Alameda County Public Health Department, said in an online town hall meeting on Friday that Tesla was “not given the green light” to reopen, CNBC reported.

“We have been working with them, looking at some of their safety plans. But no, we have not said that it is appropriate to move forward,” Pan reportedly said.

Digital Trends has reached out to Tesla and the Alameda County Public Health Department for comment. We will update this story when we hear back.

In an internal email sent to employees Thirsday and acquired by Bloomberg News, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company was planning to begin reopening the factory this afternoon.

“In light of Gov. Newsom’s statement earlier today approving manufacturing in California, we will aim to restart production in Fremont tomorrow afternoon,” the email read, according to Bloomberg. “I will be on the line personally helping wherever I can. However, if you feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time, please do not feel obligated to do so. These are difficult times, so thanks very much for working hard to make Tesla successful!”

A second email from Tesla’s HR department confirmed the plan: “Starting tomorrow, May 8, 2020, limited operations will resume at the Fremont factory starting at 30% our normal headcount per shift.”

Newsom had announced a loosening of shelter-in-place restrictions in the state, but Alameda County — where the factory is located — continues to have shelter-in-place guidelines in effect. Newsom’s announcement notes that his decision wouldn’t supersede stricter rules that may be in place at the local level.

Newsom’s office didn’t respond to requests from Digital Trends for comment.

The Tesla email reportedly claimed that the Alameda County rules would allow “distributed energy resource manufacturing, which includes electric vehicles, solar, and battery storage,” to open. However, it may be a stretch to say that a factory that produces cars is primarily manufacturing energy systems, as the email purportedly claims.

Musk has been a vocal critic of shelter-in-place orders, calling them “fascist” and “de facto house arrest.”

The Fremont factory has already been a source of controversy, as it stayed open after shelter-in-place orders went into effect, before Tesla bowed to pressure from Alameda County and closed it.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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