Chief executive Elon Musk tweeted his plans and mentioned the potential for arrests, “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.” The company said in a blog Saturday that it planned to reopen, and laid out an argument for how it could safely do so.
It is one of the most prominent examples of a powerful public figure defying local health orders amid the response to the novel coronavirus. Eric Trump, the president’s son, liked Musk’s tweet Monday.
As coronavirus shutdowns have dragged on, some states have moved more quickly to reopen, and protests have broken out to demand an end to the shutdown orders. In Silicon Valley, which has had some of the most restrictive orders in place for the longest time, a handful of tech elites have echoed and promoted Musk’s concerns.
Musk has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, at one point calling the panic “dumb.” On the company’s earnings call late last month, he called the quarantine measures “fascist” and used profanities to describe what he saw as “forcibly imprisoning” people in their homes against their constitutional rights.
Musk also tried to keep the factory open at the beginning of the crisis in mid-March, as the Bay Area became the first major region to order residents to stay home. The county at the time told Tesla it did not count as an essential business.