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Hundreds of covid cases reported at Tesla plant following Musk’s defiant reopening, county data shows

Alameda County had initially denied releasing the data, citing requirements under health privacy law.

Automaker Tesla's Fremont, Calif., factory is seen March 11. (Noah Berger/AP)
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SAN FRANCISCO — Tesla’s Bay Area production plant recorded hundreds of covid-19 cases following CEO Elon Musk’s defiant reopening of the plant in May, according to county-level data obtained by a legal transparency website.

The document, obtained by the website PlainSite following a court ruling this year, showed Tesla received around 10 reports of covid-19 in May when the plant reopened, and saw a steady rise in cases all the way up to 125 in December, as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus peaked around the country.

The revelation follows The Washington Post’s reporting in June that there had been multiple covid-19 cases reported at Tesla’s facilities in Fremont, Calif., after Musk decided to reopen despite a countywide stay-at-home order, daring officials to arrest him.

The data, covering the months between May and December, showed there were around 450 total reported cases. Roughly 10,000 people work at the plant.

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For nearly a year, the Alameda County Public Health Department said it could not release data on the number of cases under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which grants privacy for health records.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Nov. 14, 2020, he “most likely” had a moderate case of the novel coronavirus, a day before a SpaceX spacecraft was set to launch. (Video: Reuters)

As part of an agreement struck in mid-May allowing Tesla to reopen, Tesla was required to report positive cases to the health department. Despite around 10 cases in May, according to the data, the health department told The Post in early June that there were no known cases of workplace infections affecting county residents.

Tesla and the Alameda County Public Health Department and representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Tesla defied county orders so it could restart production. Days later, workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Musk fought vigorously against the county-mandated shutdown, arguing Tesla should be allowed to continue producing cars despite the stay-at-home orders. In late April, he railed against the government mandates, hurling expletives during an earnings call and calling them “fascist.” By May 11, he said Tesla was reopening, ultimately drawing support from anti-shutdown crowds and even President Donald Trump.

“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.

Tesla also came under fire for its treatment of workers. It had promised they could remain home if they felt uncomfortable returning to the line. The Post reported in late June and July that workers concerned about covid exposure received termination notices after they did not return to work.

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The data released by Alameda County shows there were 19 reported cases in June and 58 reported cases at the plant in July.

Musk drew criticism for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, after initially calling panic over the disease “dumb” and predicting there would be “close to zero new cases” by last April.

On Friday, he sent a tweet casting doubt on aspects of coronavirus vaccines, despite medical experts’ assurances that they are safe and encouragement to the broader public to receive both doses of those that require it.