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Dispute over resuming Tesla’s California factory may be ending

It seems that the dispute between Tesla and San Francisco Bay Area officials over the restarting of a factory in the face of shutdown orders is close to an end.

The Alameda County Public Health Department wrote on Twitter early Wednesday that the Fremont, California, plant will be able to go beyond general operations this week and start making vehicles this coming Monday – as long as it delivers on the worker safety precautions.

It was unclear from a press release if Tesla would face any punishment for resume Monday in defiance of county orders. Messages were left early Wednesday seeking comment from health officials and the automaker.

The release stated Fremont police would confirm whether Tesla was holding up its part of the agreement.

The release states public health indicators have to remain stable or improve for the plant to stay open.

“We will be working with the Fremont PD to verify Tesla is complying with physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their employees as they prepare for full production,” the release stated.

Tesla’s factory resumed Monday with Musk practically daring local officials to arrest him and operations apparently continued into Tuesday. The company met a Monday deadline to submit a site-specific plan to safeguard workers.

But the resuming of the plant defied orders from the health department, which has deemed the plant to be a nonessential business that can’t fully open under restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The Health Department said Monday it cautioned Tesla that it was operating in violation of the county health order, and hoped the automaker would “comply without further enforcement measures” until the county approves a site-specific plan needed by the state.

State law permits a fine of up to $1,000 a day or up to 90 days in jail for running non-essential business in violation of health orders.

The plant in Fremont, a city of over 230,000 people south of San Francisco, had been shut down since March 23. It employs about 10,000 employees.

Public health experts have credited the stay-home orders with the reduction in the spread of coronavirus, helping hospitals handle an influx of cases. The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. So far it has killed more than 83,000 people in the U.S.

Alameda County was one of the six San Francisco Bay Area counties that were the first in the nation to put a stay-at-home order in force in mid-March. Governor Gavin Newsom has repeatedly said counties can impose restrictions that are more strict than state orders.

The order in the Bay Area has been increased until the end of the month, but the counties prepare to permit some limited business and manufacturing from May 18, the same day Detroit automakers prepare to resume auto assembly plants. Some auto parts plants were to resume production this week.

Musk, whose company took legal action against Alameda County seeking to overturn its order, threatened to shift Tesla’s manufacturing operations and headquarters from the state.

Tesla contends in the lawsuit that the county can’t be more restrictive than orders from Newsom. The lawsuit states the governor’s coronavirus restrictions refer to federal guidelines classifying auto manufacturing as essential businesses that are permitted to continue operating.

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