Tesla is taking extra precautions at its Fremont car assembly plant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to an internal e-mail sent to employees early Thursday morning. Among other measures, the company will be taking employees' temperatures before they enter the factory.
The e-mail from the company's North American head of human resources, Valerie Workman, to employees also said Tesla would rearrange operations as much as possible to enable "social distancing," allowing people to keep six feet apart. Masks would also be distributed to workers throughout the day, the e-mail promised.
Workman also reiterated that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Tesla is still operating its factories, "essential" employees should still report to work, and that Tesla sees its business as part of "national critical infrastructure."
Alameda County, where Fremont is located, implemented a health order earlier this week that requires all but "essential" businesses (such as groceries, hospitals and pharmacies) to wind down to minimum basic operations. On Mar. 17, the county sheriff's office tweeted that Tesla was not considered an "essential" business and should only be engaging in "minimum basic operations," such as making payroll.
Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly told CNBC on Wednesday night that discussions between Tesla and the county and city of Fremont are ongoing.
Kelly said, "We have a public health crisis that we are dealing with, and based on the way our county health order is written, based on those directives, Tesla's Fremont factory was not defined as an essential business."
The City of Fremont said its police chief and members of the City Management team would meet with Tesla factory managers on Thursday to discuss cooperation with the county's order.
According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in people as few as two days or as many as 14 days after exposure to the novel coronavirus. People can be contagious while they are asymptomatic, and droplets of sweat or saliva on surfaces can spread the virus.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has expressed skepticism about the response to the pandemic, tweeting that the coronavirus "panic" is "dumb" and will cause more harm than the virus itself.
Tesla shares closed up more than 18% on Thursday, a mixed day for tech stocks.
Here's the full e-mail from March 19, 2020 (transcribed from the original by CNBC):
As I shared yesterday, we have asked only essential employees to report to work at our Bay Area locations, while all others who can are working from home.
Decreasing onsite personnel at our Fremont factory to only essential employees and allowing others to work remotely, is helping create a safer workspace while honoring our government commitment to keep our national critical infrastructure running.
We are continuing discussions with government officials and promise to let you know if anything changes.
Contrary to news reports, there have been no layoffs!
Those of you who arrive at our Fremont factory tomorrow will see that we are handing out masks to be worn throughout the day, taking temperatures prior to entry, adding more hygiene stations inside the facility, rearranging operations to promote social distancing as much as possible, and increasing cleaning frequency of all work areas. Helpful resources are housed on the EHS page on the Internal site.
Again, if you are not feeling well or are concerned about coming into the office, please contact your manager and stay at home. We respect your decision. All of us in leadership appreciate you. Thank you for your patience, understanding, and commitment to Tesla as together, we work through this unusual time.
Valerie Capers Workman
North America HR+ AU/NZ/JP/KR
Registered In House Counsel
[Contact information redacted]