At least 132 employees at SpaceX’s California headquarters tested positive for COVID-19. In an internal memo, SpaceX indicated that it believes the outbreak originated in September at a non-work-related event away from SpaceX facilities. A SpaceX spokesman shared the memo and said the company believes only one of the affected employees contracted COVID-19 at work.
Los Angeles County health officials reported the official numbers, saying that they are subject to change as new information comes in. SpaceX employs 6,000 people at its headquarters in Hawthorne.
The spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant caused an overall spike in cases nationwide. Approximately 254,000 new cases were reported in the United States on Monday.
Early last year, Elon Musk famously challenged Alameda County and California state officials over COVID-19-related restrictions that impacted Tesla’s Gigafactory in Fremont. California has since declared Tesla an essential business that is exempt from restrictions.
California’s retreat from forcing the Fremont Gigafactory to close did not stop Musk from moving to Texas and selling his California homes. He mentioned that he might use the money from selling the homes to boost SpaceX’s efforts to get people to Mars. He also moved Tesla’s headquarters from California to Texas.
Both Tesla and SpaceX are building factories in the Austin area. These companies are expected to hire thousands of new employees apiece by the time the factories are ready to open. Elon Musk has called for development of more housing in and around Austin to help relieve the housing crunch in the area.
He may not be completely enamored with Texas’ government, though. Musk sniped back at Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s claim that he approves of Texas’ social policies in the wake of the state’s passing of a controversial abortion law.
Musk also questioned the reliability of the “fast” version of the COVID-19 test after receiving two positive and two negative tests when he was tested for the virus. The fast test is less reliable than the more accurate but slower PCR test.
Last year, Musk said that he might not get the vaccine, since he wasn’t in a vulnerable demographic like senior citizens or people with already existing health conditions. There is no word on whether he changed his mind.
Los Angeles County officials requires employees to wear masks when not eating, drinking, or alone in a room. It also requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter bars, restaurants, and gyms. These rules may not apply to private employers like SpaceX, however.
Los Angeles County officials have not given a statement on the outbreak at the SpaceX headquarters beyond releasing the numbers.
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, SpaceX is ending the year on a strong note with the launch of a cargo mission to the International Space Station early Tuesday morning. The Cargo Dragon contains holiday treats and gifts for the ISS crew. The landing of the Falcon 9 first stage on one of SpaceX’s cargo missions marks the 100th time that SpaceX has successfully landed a first stage booster for possible reuse.