Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California remained opened for work in May of 2020 despite an Alameda County public health order that required non-essential businesses to close during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company eventually sued the county, which allowed the company to open. But it turns out that 450 of the factory’s 10,000 tested positive for COVID-19 from May to December, The Washington Post reports.
These findings run in direct contradiction to the company safety chief Laurie Shelby’s claims that there had been “zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions” since the reopening of the plant.
Even then, though, there were indications that things weren’t quite up to snuff. Shelby didn’t provide any indication of how that determination was made, and she also implied that not all COVID-19 positive employees followed the correct protocol of self-isolation at home once exposed. And employees at the factory noted that it was impossible to follow the county-mandated safety measures that required face masks, cleaning shared tools, and maintaining social distancing—and that some supervisors just didn’t care to enforce them.
Later, The Washington Post reported that there were as many as 125 active cases at the Tesla factory, which now appears to have been a significant underestimation. Instead, the company had actually noted 450 active cases by that time.
The big problem with reporting has come from the fact that the county couldn’t share the COVID-19 data Tesla provided it because it would violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Now, questions are being raised about the safety of the Tesla plant as well as Alameda County’s role in covering up the rising COVID-19 cases.
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Which isn’t the only problem Elon Musk is facing today. He has stated baselessly that there’s “some debate” about the purpose of the second COVID-19 vaccine shot, and his tweets are once again the focal point of a lawsuit. This time, a Tesla investor is suing Musk for continuing to send “erratic tweets” that violate his 2018 settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The argument is that Musk’s tweets leave the company open to fines and penalties from regulators that could drive down Tesla’s share price, which would in turn damage investments.
All in all, it sounds like this weekend is kicking off on the wrong foot for Elon Musk and Tesla.