COVID-19

Elon Musk says he’s defying government orders, reopening Tesla assembly plant

David Brancaccio, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder May 12, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Musk has also threatened to move his operation out of California altogether. Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Elon Musk says he’s defying government orders, reopening Tesla assembly plant

David Brancaccio, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder May 12, 2020
Musk has also threatened to move his operation out of California altogether. Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images
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Tesla’s Elon Musk says he’s defying government orders and opening up the carmaker’s assembly plant in California. Musk says his business is a special case. All eyes are on local government officials in Silicon Valley and what they’ll do next.

The high-profile showdown is the latest example of the dilemma facing business leaders around the country: When to reopen and how?

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that the state of California should let Tesla and Elon Musk open the plant now, adding that “it can be done fast and safely.”

The response from local government officials has been more muted so far. Californa Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared caught off guard during a press conference Monday as reporters peppered him with questions about Musk’s decision, which he announced on Twitter. He said if anyone should be arrested for defying government orders, it should be him, not the 10,000 people who work for him.

County officials said in a statement they hoped to work things out. Tesla was supposed to submit a plan yesterday on protocols and a timeline for returning to full operation at the assembly plant. There’s no word yet if that’s happened.

The location of this particular assembly plant, Fremont, California, in Alameda County, is important. It’s a hot spot of COVID-19 infections. There have been 70 deaths, so health officials have been cautious about reopening too quickly.

But Musk has been critical of the pandemic shutdown as a whole, and he sued over the weekend to reopen his factory.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives says Musk is feeling the pressure to resume business.

“Given that they make cars versus, let’s say, services like a Facebook — much different business model, which puts more pressure on them to reopen the factory just given the cash burn that happens every day,” Ives said.

Musk has even threatened to move his operation out of California altogether. But Ives is skeptical — he says that would be a tough and time-consuming thing to do.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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