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Tesla to suspend operations at California factory following local intervention amid coronavirus outbreak

Tesla to suspend operations at California factory following local intervention amid coronavirus outbreak

FRIDAY, March 20, 2020
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SAN FRANCISCO - Tesla is suspending production at its factory in Fremont, California, amid widespread criticism over keeping its production line active despite a Bay Area shelter-in-place order.

In a news release issued Thursday, the company said it had decided to "temporarily suspend" production at the Fremont factory that employs about 10,000 workers beginning Monday. That timeline, the company said, "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, adding that a Buffalo factory location would also suspend production.

Tesla's action came after intervention from local officials including the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, who said this week Tesla was not an "essential business" under the order, and Fremont Police, who said they were meeting with factory management Thursday.

In the Bay Area, companies are allowed to maintain "minimum basic operation" amid the orders that took effect Tuesday. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email to employees Monday saying he would be coming to work, and that employees shouldn't feel obligated to do the same.

Earlier Thursday, workers said they reported to the factory as usual and saw a full parking lot. Line workers were given face masks and had their temperature taken as they walked in the door, they said.

Tesla's stock closed up 18 percent Thursday, but fell sharply in after-hours trading, dropping by 9 percent.

Musk has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the crisis, at one point calling the panic over the novel coronavirus "dumb." After he shared a link about China's reporting no new locally acquired infections, he speculated that the U.S., too, would be on track to report no new cases by the end of April. China implemented extreme measures such as blocking off cities at the center of the outbreak and enabling widespread testing of its population, measures not yet implemented in the U.S. Medical experts have also cautioned that China is not entirely in the clear, because there could be subsequent waves of the illness.