Elon Musk keeps Tesla open in shutdown zone

Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk suggested the electric-car maker’s San Francisco Bay Area operations will remain open to those who want to report for work and told employees he will keep going in despite the spread of the coronavirus.

“I’d like to be super clear that if you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work,” the chief executive officer wrote to staff in an email seen by Bloomberg News. “I will personally be at work, but that’s just me.”

The email doesn’t specifically address whether Tesla will keep open its lone U.S. auto plant in Fremont, California, where the company just added the Model Y crossover to assembly lines already producing the Model 3, S and X.

A spokesman for Alameda County told the Los Angeles Times that the factory has been deemed an essential business and is allowed to remain in operation despite Bay Area orders for people to stay home to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Tesla representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk’s email did not say if workers who want to stay home will be paid.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in the Bay Area prompted several counties to implement a lockdown this week, calling for people to shelter in place and shuttering businesses unless they’re essential.

Tesla is one of the largest employers in Alameda County, which reported 18 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Monday. The county’s public health department referred inquiries about Tesla to the company.

Musk told his millions of Twitter followers on March 6 that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.” The electric car-maker has said little publicly about how it’s handling the virus, in contrast with other automakers and Silicon Valley’s leading technology companies.

But Tesla has some experience to rely on: its Chinese factory near Shanghai was temporarily shuttered earlier this year and is now back online.

“My frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself,” Musk wrote in the email on Monday. “If there is a massive redirection of medical resources out of proportion to the danger, it will result in less available care to those with critical medical needs, which does not serve the greater good.”

Tesla shares slipped 0.2% as of 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in New York. The stock plunged 19% on Monday, its biggest decline since January 2012, to pare this year’s gain to 6.4%.

Tesla has not said how many cars it expects to produce and deliver in the first quarter. In January, the company said deliveries should “comfortably” exceed 500,000 units for the year.

That number is now in question, with analysts at RBC Capital Markets saying Monday they expect the company to hand over 364,600 cars to customers, down slightly from its 2019 total.

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Elon Musk keeps Tesla open in shutdown zone