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By Bruce Sussman
Wed | Mar 18, 2020 | 3:15 PM PDT

This is another sign of the times, and it is a strange one in the technology space.

You've likely heard that several counties in northern California are under "shelter in place" orders because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

In Alameda County, California, only essential businesses, such as hospitals for example, can operate like it is business as usual.

Tesla factory: an essential business during COVID-19?

Elon Musk apparently thought this meant his Tesla factory was an "essential business" because it continued to run like normal on the first day of the shelter in place order, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Times reported finding about 3,000 workers at the company's Freemont plant, packing onto shuttle buses between shifts like it was just another day at the office.

The Times also reported that Musk is a skeptic when it comes to the impact of COVID-19, and he shared that in a letter to employees:

"My frank opinion is that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself," he wrote. He said that COVID-19 cases "will not exceed 0.1% of the population."

Regardless of the CEO's opinion, on day two of the shelter in place rule, the sheriff and county told the factory to shut down. This is a huge operation that produces the Model 3, the Model X, the Model S, and the newest Model Y.

The Alameda County Sheriff's department tweeted about the decision:


"Tesla is not an essential business as defined in the Alameda County Health Order. Tesla can maintain minimum basic operations...."

This would include things like someone in payroll coming into process things or a security guard to protect the plant and its inventory.

Building the latest Teslas does not qualify as essential, except to the company, which hit a record stock price of $900 before the closure.

[Related: Tesla Statement on Closing Freemont & New York Plants]

Twitter reacts to Tesla factory shutdown

Everything Elon Musk does draws an incredible amount of attention, and leaving his factory open when it violated a health order did as well.

The Twitter response was incredibly wide ranging. 

One person who claimed to be an employee wrote:


Others claimed that those behind the shutdown are people who would make money from it... or maybe not:


Some appealed to Musk's well-known high demands on employees, others to the environmental aspect of a shutdown like this:


And others accused the Alameda County Sheriff of using Tesla as the poster child to scare others into compliance. Or, perhaps, he was just upholding the current health order:


These are unusual times, aren't they?

But no matter what is happening on the planet, it seems like Elon Musk can still draw attention to himself.

Tags: Regulations,