The SpaceX headquarters in Southern California is now the private company with the highest number of cases in Los Angeles County, the New York Times reports. Since July, 132 staffers have caught the virus.
The concern over case count has risen recently in the wake of the Omicron variant, which is still something of a mystery to scientists but appears to be better able to infect vaccinated people than the previous Delta variant. Some of these COVID cases among SpaceX’s 6,000 Hawthorne, Calif. employees, though, came prior to the Omicron variant’s first recorded arrival in California (although, as we saw with the initial arrival of COVID, actual arrival dates and recorded arrival dates may vary).
The Los Angeles Times reports that this outbreak coincides with one of SpaceX’s busiest months in the company’s history. SpaceX has fielded four launches this month in both California and Florida, meaning that employees have likely been in close contact and may not have been taking as many precautions as before, and it recently set a record for the quickest turnaround time between two launches. Eighteen hours after launching Starlink satellites from California, SpaceX launched a Turkish satellite from Florida. There’s another launch scheduled for this morning as well.
Elon Musk has had a rocky history of COVID in the California region. He insisted upon keeping a Bay Area Tesla plant open despite lockdown restrictions that should have prevented it, and as a result, around 450 employees contracted the virus. He has also encouraged employees to keep working in order to counter supply chain and COVID-related delays.
Musk himself had COVID back in November 2020, but it doesn’t appear that the experience has tempered his beliefs about working through the virus.
So far, it doesn’t appear that the number of COVID cases will impact SpaceX’s future launches.