After a rocky week that saw Tesla’s top brass telling workers that they should continue showing up to their jobs in spite of the global covid-19 pandemic and advisories from local authorities, the company now says it will suspend production at its production facility in the US city of Fremont, California.
The decision follows conversations with American authorities on the local, state, and federal levels, the company said Thursday in a notice to its investors. The company said that in order to “allow for an orderly shutdown,” operations will continue through the end of the day on 23 March.
“Despite taking all known health precautions, continued operations in certain locations has caused challenges for our employees, their families and our suppliers,” the company said. “As such, we have decided to temporarily suspend production at our factory in Fremont, from end of day March 23, which will allow an orderly shutdown. Basic operations will continue in order to support our vehicle and energy service operations and charging infrastructure, as directed by the local, state and federal authorities.”
The company said that “basic operations” relating to its vehicle and energy service operations would continue. While Tesla said that operations at its battery production factory in Nevada would continue, it will also be suspending production at its New York facility.
A spokesperson for Tesla did not immediately return a request for comment.
The announcement signals a swift U-turn from what the company was communicating to workers just days ago. In a Wednesday mail sent to factory workers that was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the company’s head of human resources Valerie Capers Workman said that there were “no changes in your normal assignment and you should continue to report for work if you are in an essential function,” further stating that those “essential function” roles included “production, service, deliveries, testing and supporting groups.”
But that directive appeared to defy a shelter in place order that applied specifically to Alameda where the Fremont facility is located. Alameda County spokesman Ray Kelly told the Times on Wednesday that county officials had explained to Tesla that it “cannot continue their business as usual” and that it must “go on a minimum operations basis.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, forever refusing to log the fuck off, has significantly downplayed the severity of the pandemic, tweeting on Thursday that his “guess is that the panic will cause more harm than the virus, if that hasn’t happened already.” Meanwhile, access to testing remains limited; the number of confirmed cases of covid-19 worldwide has surpassed 209,000, according to the World Health Organization; and nearly 9,000 deaths have been linked to the virus.