Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu, Yilei Sun and Tina Bellon in New York.
(Reuters) – U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc will be allowed to continue operating its Fremont factory as the San Francisco Bay Area on Tuesday begins a three-week lockdown to rein in the spread of coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Tesla’s sole U.S. auto factory in Alameda County employs more than 10,000 workers and had annualized production of slightly over 415,000 units by the fourth quarter.
The county is one of six covered by a ‘shelter in place’ order from regional authorities that limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential, and advises people to stay home except for the most crucial reasons.
An Alameda County spokesman told the LA Times that Tesla had been declared an “essential business” that was allowed to continue operating amid the shutdown, but the spokesman was not able to provide further details.
Tesla and Alameda County officials did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Under the county’s order, “gas stations, auto-supply, auto-repair and related facilities” are considered essential businesses, but it was unclear if Tesla managed to get an exemption under that rule.
Tesla told workers that the factory is planned to be in operation on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported late on Monday, citing comments received from Tesla workers.
In an internal memo on Monday, Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk told employees he was not aware of any who had tested positive for the virus, and urged them to stay home if they felt the “slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable,” sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Bay Area counties had reported 273 coronavirus infections by Monday. California has reported six deaths from the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus.
Editing by Miyoung Kim, Clarence Fernandez and Paul Simao.