California Adds Exemption for Tesla in Coronavirus Rules

California has added an “essential worker” exemption for Tesla operations in the state in an apparent bid to end a months-long fight with the company. The California Department of Public Health added this exemption to its new Limited Stay at Home Order.

The exemption grants permission for Tesla to operate its factory in Fremont, California, according to previous safety guidelines related to the COVID-19 epidemic. Nonessential workers will still be required to stay home between the hours of 10pm and 5am.

In response to a query from CNBC, the California Department of Public Health said:

“The Limited Stay at Home Order does not apply to these employees as they are deemed essential workers – manufacturing is listed as an essential workforce. You can find more here. The Critical Manufacturing Sector identifies several industries to serve as the core of the sector including Transportation Equipment Manufacturing Products. While operating, this sector must follow industry guidance for manufacturing.”

Elon Musk has especially gotten into scraps with county-level officials such as the chief of the Alameda County Health Department, which he claimed was forcing him to shut down the factory against the orders of state level officials. He decided to defy the shutdown order and took to Twitter to basically dare county officials to come and get him.

At the time, California Governor Gavin Newsom pushed for the two sides to come to an agreement even as state assembly members tweeted insults like Lorena Gonzalez’s “F*ck Elon Musk”. Alameda County eventually backed down and allowed the factory to reopen with a safety plan in place. It is likely that Elon Musk’s threats to move factory operations out of California was a factor. The factory in Fremont employs 10,000 people.

Alemeda County may still want to place more restrictive measures on activity within the county. The county has been placed in the state’s “purple tier” for the coronavirus, which is California’s most restrictive tier.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk continues to criticize California’s existing business environment even though some of its policies seem to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles like Tesla’s. On October 30, he sent out this tweet:

More recently, Elon Musk contracted mild symptoms of COVID-19 and compared his symptoms to that of a mild cold. He has criticized testing for the presence of the COVID-19 virus after getting mixed results from the faster version of the test.

California’s exemption to the Limited Stay at Home Order may help Tesla meet its goal of delivering 500,000 electric vehicles this year by helping it keep its existing manufacturing capacity up and running. This may still be a challenge even with a new factory in Shanghai that opened this year. For reference, Tesla delivered 367,000 vehicles in 2019.

Just the fact that Musk is so willing to push back against state and county officials whom he perceives as attempting to use the COVID-19 virus as an excuse to flex their muscles may actually help him pull off his manufacturing goals.