On May 11th, Elon Musk defied local health care officials and reopened his Tesla factory in Fremont, California. Now, via Washington Post and Vox, “several cases” of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed among his unfortunate workers.
Musk initially closed his Tesla factories back in March, after coming into conflict with the Fremont police and Alameda County sheriff. Two months later, California state guidelines suggested that companies like Tesla could reopen, although the guidelines were non-binding and deferential to local health care officials. The Alameda County Public Health Department tried to block Tesla’s re-opening, but Musk did it anyway, while also suing the county. A few days later, the issue was resolved when Musk agreed to stricter safety measures. These measure have proven to be insufficient.
For privacy reasons, the exact number of positive test results has not been revealed. But two anonymous workers told WaPo that the virus isn’t just confined to the Fremont factory, it’s also spread nearby to Tesla’s seat-assembly plant. And the outbreak is continuing to grow. After the Post’s article went live on Tuesday, the electric transportation site Electrek broke the news that four additional Tesla employees tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday alone.
Reportedly, employees are utilizing masks and hand sanitizer, but social distancing isn’t being observed. One worker told Electrek,
“We’re still working on top of each other. All they do is make us wear a mask in a hot factory. They take our temperature and have us use hand sanitizer when we walk in. But obviously, that isn’t working.”
Elon Musk has not released a comment on these reports. But San Jose’s Mercury News noted that Tesla is having trouble meeting pre-orders for its new crossover vehicle, the Model Y. Despite that, Tesla’s stock price recently soared past $1,000 a share, putting the company in spitting distance of becoming the world’s highest-valued car maker. Between those two pressures — meeting Model Y promises and keeping stock prices elevated — Musk has plenty of financial incentive to look the other way.
Indeed, greed is the simplest explanation for why a man as apparently intelligent as Musk has been so consistently wrong about the coronavirus. Musk is the artist behind such Twitter hits as “coronavirus panic is dumb,” “probably close to zero new cases in US too by end of April,” and of course, the all-caps opus “FREE AMERICA NOW!”. COVID-19 deaths in the US are now above 115,000, and while cases have declined in the tri-state area, several other states are teetering on the edge of crisis.
You might think Musk had better things to do. Last month, he and his partner Grimes welcomed into the world a healthy baby boy, whom they named Æ A-12 and then subsequently re-named to comply with California law. While other new fathers might want to spend time with their children, Musk has been on the line at Tesla factories, when he wasn’t tweeting out directives to “take the red pill.” His behavior was such that Grimes mom got involved, sub-tweeting the billionaire and calling his comments “bullshit.”