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Elon Musk to defy coronavirus stay-at-home order as California Gov. Newsom talks Tesla production restart

Lucas Manfredi

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is defying Alameda County, California's, stay-at-home order despite the county's health department not clearing the electric vehicle manufacturer to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules," Musk tweeted Monday. "I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."

Alameda County health officer Erica Pan said Friday that Tesla's Fremont factory would not reopen despite California Gov. Gavin Newsom greenlighting manufacturing to resume in the state.

"We have not given the green light," Pan said. "We have been working with them...but no, we have not said that we think that it is appropriate for them to move forward."

The governor's order does not override the county's stay-at-home order, which is in place through May 31.

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Despite the order, employees from Tesla's Fremont facility were spotted heading into work on Monday, following an angry Twitter rant from Musk on Saturday. Musk said Pan's decision was "the final straw" and threatened to move the company's headquarters out of the state.

"Frankly, this is the final straw," Musk tweeted. "Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future."

Musk went on to call the local health official "ignorant" in a separate tweet, and encouraged Tesla shareholders to file a class-action lawsuit in another.

"Tesla knows far more about what needs to be done to be safe through our Tesla China factory experience than an (unelected) interim junior official in Alameda County," Musk added in a reply to another tweet.

San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez blasted Musk for his rant, while officials in Texas, Nevada, Georgia and Utah who all encouraged Musk to follow through in his threat in an attempt lure him into moving Tesla's headquarters to their states.

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Newsom addressed the issue during the state's coronavirus briefing Monday.

"As it relates to Tesla, I have long been a strong advocate and supporter, early adopter, of the technology. I have not only known that company but I have known its founder for many many years,” Newsom said. "I have great reverence for their technology, for their innovative spirit, for their leadership, and I have great expectations that we can work through at the county level, the issue with this particular county and this company in the next number of days."

When asked about the viral photo of the employees at the Fremont factory, Newsom said he was unaware of Musk's plan to reopen.

“When I walked up to the podium today, that wasn’t the case,” Newsom said.

While Newsom said the decision will be made through discussions between Alameda County and Tesla, he hopes the Fremont facility would be allowed to resume production next week.

“My understanding is they have had some very constructive conversations with the folks at that facility,” Newsom said of talks between Alameda County health officials and Tesla. “The county health director and [Tesla] are working to focus on the health and safety of the employees at that facility and my belief and hope and expectation is as early as next week, they will be able to resume.”

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Newsom has previously defended the state's handling of the coronavirus despite Musk's continued criticism of the state's stay-at-home orders.

“Good people can disagree, and we've been guided by science, data [and] facts not only on the ground here in the state of California, across this country, but guided by the prevalence of this disease around the rest of the world,” Newsom said during a briefing on April 30.

During Tesla's earnings call in April, Musk called the order a violation of Americans' constitutional rights.

"The extent of shelter in place or, frankly what I would call it, forcibly imprisoning people in their homes is against all their constitutional rights...and erasing people's freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country, what the f--k," Musk said.

He also took heat from Rep. Ilhan Omar for a tweet demanding to "FREE AMERICA NOW."

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In Alameda County, there are over 2,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 71 deaths, according to the latest update by Johns Hopkins University.

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