Tesla’s safety chief claimed the company’s Fremont plant has had ‘zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions’ since reopening in May

Tesla has attempted to reopen its Fremont factory multiple times despite local lockdown orders. Mason Trinca/Getty Images
  • Tesla safety chief Laurie Shelby claimed the company’s Fremont factory has had “zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions” since restarting operations in May, according to CNBC.
  • In an internal memo first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday, Shelby said employees exposed to the virus followed safety protocols, like staying home and alerting managers, in “most instances.”
  • But employees told CNBC that the safety rules imposed by county officials as a requirement for the company to reopen have been impossible to follow.
  • Several Tesla employees have tested positive for the virus since CEO Elon Musk defied local lockdown orders to restart production at the factory.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A top Tesla executive claimed that there have been “zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions” at the company’s factory in Fremont, California, since it reopened in May, CNBC reported Friday.

Laurie Shelby, Tesla’s vice president of environment, health, and safety told employees in an internal memo, which was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday, that employees’ exposure to the virus happened outside the facility and primarily from family members or housemates.

The memo did not explain how Tesla made that determination.

Shelby also wrote that “in most instances,” the employee in question followed company safety protocols like staying home, telling a manager, and getting tested, though she did not elaborate on cases where protocols were not followed, according to CNBC.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that several Tesla employees in California, including at least two at a facility near the Fremont plant, tested positive for the virus after CEO Elon Musk resumed manufacturing operations in defiance of local stay-at-home orders in May.

Tesla and officials from Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is located, eventually reached a deal allowing the company to resume operations with certain safety measures in place and a requirement that it report new cases to the county.

But employees told CNBC that those protocols, which include wearing a face mask, cleaning shared tools, and maintaining social distance, have been impossible to adhere to while doing their work and that supervisors have often been lax about enforcing them.

As Tesla ramps up production and calls employees back to work, it has told workers they can stay home but that they may risk losing unemployment benefits if they choose to do so.

Musk has repeatedly clashed with local officials over the lockdown orders and even personally lobbied President Donald Trump over the issue, telling him that running the assembly lines wouldn’t pose “significant risk” to workers.

Musk has called stay-at-home orders “fascist” and “fundamentally a violation of the Constitution,” despite overwhelming evidence that they save lives. (The US Supreme Court has so far refused to overrule governors who implement such orders).

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on this story.