In the wake of a surge of COVID-19 cases and a threatened statewide mask mandate in Nevada, Tesla is requiring all employees at the battery factory in Nevada to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously clashed with Californian state and county officials who forced the temporary closure of the company’s factory in Fremont last year. The state has since added Tesla to its list of “essential businesses” that can remain open, but that hasn’t stopped Elon Musk from moving out of the state and selling all of his personal properties in California, including the sale of three Bel-Air properties to a Californian developer. The only property he expressed reluctance to part with was one that once belonged to a favorite actor:
Musk has tried not to make it 100% about the state’s response to COVID-19, saying that he is now focused on pouring his personal fortune into SpaceX’s efforts to develop Starship, which will be capable of sending people to Mars once it becomes fully operational. He now rents a $50,000 prefab house at the Boca Chica site from SpaceX. SpaceX is currently gearing up for the orbital test of a Starship prototype that will launch from its Boca Chica, Texas, launch facility and come down off the Hawaiian coastline.
Even so, he has gone on record as calling California’s COVID-19 response “fascist” and filed a lawsuit against Alemeda County after it ordered the Fremont factory to be closed. He also opened the factory against those orders, saying that “if anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.” The county backed down and it led to the resignation of at least one county official, whom Elon Musk had referred to as an unelected “interim health officer.”
Former employees at the Fremont factory also say that Tesla fired them for refusing to show up to work due to concerns about COVID-19. They claim that Musk said that if “you feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time, please do not feel obligated to do so.” Tesla appeared to reverse that policy pretty fast after that statement.
Didn’t Elon Musk catch COVID-19 himself? Well, he called the less accurate “fast” version of the test “extremely bogus” in a Tweet after getting two positive and two negative tests. So maybe it’s 50/50 whether he really did have COVID-19, though his expected criticism of the test did draw a few jokes from his followers on Twitter:
Musk may simply be trying to avoid a repeat of his fight with California over his operations in Nevada. State officials may also have paid attention to Musk’s pushback over shutting down his Fremont factory, especially considering that Musk has since selected the Austin area for construction of new manufacturing facilities for both Tesla and SpaceX and sold his Californian properties since the entire drama between Musk and the state of California started. The Tesla facility alone is expected to bring more than 10,000 jobs to the Austin area.
As normal for Tesla, it has not yet issued a statement about the mask requirement or responded to requests for comment.