As COVID-19 cases continue to mount across the globe, several automakers are closing their plants when workers come up positive for the virus. Volkswagen suspended production in Europe, and Fiat as well as other Italian automakers have halted production as well, as Italy is currently the hardest hit nation on the continent. So, when a manufacturer formally announces its plant will stay open given the recent coronavirus situation, it is a bit of an outlier. But that’s exactly what Tesla is doing.
To date, other U.S. automakers have not officially announced shutdowns at this point, though some workers are coming up positive for the virus.
Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant, which builds all its current models and employs nearly 10,000 workers, will remain operational according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. Local governments around the U.S. have demanded restaurants and other places of public gathering close to try and prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable communities. However, for its part Alameda County, California declared Tesla an “essential business”. As such, a county spokesperson said the plant will be allowed to operate, even in the wake of tightening restrictions on businesses.
“We’re in uncharted waters right now,” spokesman Ray Kelly said when asked why Tesla would be allowed to remain open. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an e-mail Monday night that the plant would stay open, with a reasonable caveat.
“If you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work.”
“Don’t want to risk losing my job”
Most employers are offering some flexibility to their employees in response to the recent outbreak. Musk earlier minimized the widespread reaction to COVID-19, referring to the “panic” and its likelihood to do more harm than the virus itself.
While he said focusing on the pandemic which has now affected 182,000 people worldwide will detract from research into other diseases, Musk’s e-mail assuring employees they shouldn’t come to work if they feel sick is a welcome piece of advice. However, as with many people around the country, workers who rely on their position as a sole source of income may well continue to go to work, even if they are feeling unwell.
One employee e-mailed the Times saying, “I’m going in on [when my next shift starts] Thursday unless anything changes. Don’t want to risk losing my job. But the main thing I am worried about is getting it and bringing it home to my senior parents 67 and 74 one of which has emphysema. But what [am] I supposed to do??”
For those economically impacted by coronavirus, some creditors are offering forms of relief, including deferred payments, as an option. Automakers are offering that choice and even making payments should new car buyers lose their jobs in the wake of coronavirus in the coming months.