Tesla factory will stay open as an 'essential business' despite coronavirus order

But CEO Elon Musk says workers should 'not feel obligated to come to work'

Tesla has been declared an "essential business" and will remain open during the San Francisco Bay Area's three-week "shelter in place" lockdown to rein in the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Los Angeles Times.

If you're wondering what makes Tesla's automobile factory in Fremont, Calif., "essential," you're not alone. “That’s a good question,” said Alameda County spokesman Ray Kelly, who added, "We're in uncharted waters right now."

Tesla employs more than 10,000 workers at its Fremont plant. In an email sent to those workers, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said, "I’d like to be super clear that if you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work." According to the report, he also said, "My frank opinion is that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself. ... I will personally be at work, but that’s just me."

The entire "shelter in place" order can be read here. According to the order's FAQ section, the list of "essential businesses" include "health care operations; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers (including convenience stores); pharmacies; child care facilities; gas stations; banks; laundry businesses and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence." You can apparently also add electric vehicle production to the list.

According to Reuters, Bay Area counties reported 273 virus infections by Monday. California has reported six deaths from the respiratory illness.

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