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Tesla created a ‘public health risk’ by keeping car factory open, local official said

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Tesla introduced on March 19th that it will quickly shut down its electrical automotive manufacturing facility in California, after back-and-forth with native officers about whether or not the plant was topic to a county-wide coronavirus shelter-in-place order. However the Silicon Valley automaker fought to maintain the manufacturing facility open after that announcement as properly, in line with new emails obtained by Protocol. It additionally got here after the county’s well being officer determined that protecting the plant open was a “public well being threat.”

The emails have been despatched by the native police chief to Tesla’s senior coverage advisor, Dan Chia. Every one features a letter memorializing calls and digital conferences between Tesla and native metropolis and county officers. They assist make clear the deliberations between the corporate and the authorities about whether or not the manufacturing facility was an “important enterprise,” which might have allowed it to remain open following the county-wide (and finally state-wide) shelter-in-place orders meant to assist fight the unfold of the novel coronavirus.

Tesla’s argument to these native officers, and to its personal staff, has been that the corporate believes it must be thought of “nationwide vital infrastructure,” in line with public pointers from the Division of Homeland Safety’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Company, or CISA. CISA issued guidelines outlining what it considered to be critical infrastructure in 2015 that included “automobiles and business ships manufacturing.” However in a March 28th memorandum in regards to the novel coronavirus pandemic, automobile manufacturing will not be particularly listed within the “vital manufacturing” part of CISA’s steerage. On the similar time that Tesla was making this argument, each different main automaker ceased manufacturing operations within the US.

Tesla tried to persuade metropolis and county officers of this within the days main as much as the shutdown announcement, and requested to be deemed an “important enterprise” so it may maintain producing the Mannequin 3, Mannequin S, Mannequin X, and the Mannequin Y (which the corporate had simply began delivering) on the California manufacturing facility.

Kimberly Petersen, the chief of police in Fremont, California (the place the manufacturing facility is situated), informed Chia on March 18th that the county’s interim well being officer had determined Tesla’s manufacturing facility was not important, in line with the emails, that means it must abide by the March 16th shelter-in-place order and cease operations. The county well being officer additionally informed the town that protecting the manufacturing plant open and making the 10,000 or so staff report in can be a “public well being threat,” although it’s unclear within the emails if this was particularly communicated to Tesla. The corporate didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

The following day, Chia and a variety of different Tesla executives informed the town in a digital assembly that the corporate would adjust to the order. “I want to reiterate that the Metropolis of Fremont extremely values Tesla as a accomplice and appreciates what you do for our economic system and our neighborhood,” Petersen wrote in her electronic mail memorializing the assembly, which was dated March 21st. “We’re extraordinarily grateful to your willingness to collaborate in our combat towards the unfold of COVID-19 by putting public well being forward of all different priorities.”

Later that day, although, Chia informed the deputy metropolis supervisor that he felt Petersen’s letter was “not totally correct,” and the 2 sides had one other digital assembly on March 22nd. Throughout that assembly, Tesla’s appearing basic counsel informed the town that he believed the state-wide shelter-in-place order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom outmoded the county order, and that the language of the state order left room for Tesla to stay open. In one other memo despatched to Tesla on March 22nd, Petersen writes that she nonetheless felt “sure to uphold [the county health officer’s] interpretation” of the county-wide order.

Tesla finally determined to maintain winding down its operations on the manufacturing facility, save for primary operations like payroll. It additionally informed the town that it will maintain bringing in some manufacturing facility staff to carry out so-called “end-of-line” work, and the Fremont police division discovered Tesla to be “in compliance” throughout a post-shutdown inspection, as was first reported by The Verge final week.

The corporate has since gone on to reduce operations on the Gigafactory in Nevada by greater than 75 %, and has additionally shut down its photo voltaic panel manufacturing facility in New York. Curiously, Petersen informed Tesla in one of many emails that if the corporate “transition[ed] to manufacturing ventilators, or different tools meant to assist within the combat towards COVID-19,” it may have stored the manufacturing facility open. Tesla is at the moment sourcing and delivering desperately wanted ventilators in California and New York, together with surgical masks, and CEO Elon Musk has stated he needs to fabricate ventilators with assist from Medtronic. However Musk has stated he plans to make the ventilators at Tesla’s New York manufacturing facility, not in California.

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