Tesla must pause production at its Fremont factory to shelter in place

The company has to follow the same rules as other non-essential businesses.

Yesterday, it looked like Tesla's factory in Fremont, California, would remain open despite being in one of the California counties under a shelter in place order. Today, a spokeswoman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office said otherwise. The factory has been deemed non-essential, and like other non-essential businesses in the area, it must shutdown all activity except minimum basic operations.

Originally, Alameda County declared Tesla an essential business, a county spokesperson told The Los Angeles Times. But when asked what made automobile manufacturing essential during a pandemic, the spokesperson said, "that's a good question," and noted that we are in "uncharted waters right now."

The factory employs more than 10,000 workers, and as of the end of December, it was producing 415,000 electric vehicles annually, Autoblog reports. The shelter-in-place order comes right as Tesla was beginning to deliver its Model Y crossover and ramp up production for more orders. The coronavirus outbreak already forced the company to shut down its $2 billion Shanghai-based Gigafactory for 10 days.

Under the order from the Alameda sheriff's office, Tesla can maintain minimum basic operations, like providing security and processing payroll and employee benefits. Violating the order is punishable by fine, imprisonment or both.

Before the sheriff's office deemed Tesla a non-essential business, Elon Musk told employees not to feel obligated to come to work if they felt ill or uncomfortable. "I will personally be at work, but that's just me. Totally ok if you want to stay home for any reason," Musk said in a memo shared with Reuters.

Of course, Tesla will not be the only business disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. Last month, Apple warned that the global iPhone supply will be "temporarily constrained" and that the downturn will hurt its bottom line.

Engadget has reached out to Tesla for comment.