Tesla
Tesla wants to rev back into action, local county officials are not having any of that, just yet. Police visited the company's California plant to see whether compliance requirements were in place. Image Credit: AP

California: Police visited Tesla Inc.'s sole US car plant Wednesday to assess whether the electric-car maker was adhering to safety protocols agreed to with the county that Elon Musk publicly said he would defy earlier in the week.

The officials went to the factory late in the afternoon to view employee screening and physical distancing measures, as well as to confirm universal use of face coverings. Findings from the visit - which Tesla was notified of in advance - will be presented to the public health officer for Alameda County, which will determine compliance.

The police visit followed a confusing series of events that has typified the US debate over how soon to reopen the economy. Alameda County issued a statement late Tuesday saying it had agreed to let Tesla augment "minimum basic operations" at the factory more than a full day after Musk, the CEO, said the company was restarting production and was doing so against county rules.

President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin voiced support for the carmaker.

Persuade rather than penalise

If police found a possible violation of the county's health order or safety measures to which the company agreed, the county and police could decide to present information to the district attorney's office. But the police spokeswoman played down the possibility of this happening, saying the department's goal has been to gain compliance through cooperation with all businesses in the city.

"Given the unique nature and scale of automobile manufacturing and the safety measures agreed to by Tesla, we concluded that ramp-up activity with a minimal increase in minimum basic operations can occur safely," Balram said.

After publicly releasing a back-to-work plan over the weekend, Tesla submitted a new, site-specific plan for the Fremont plant to county officials, who had asked Tesla to screen employees before they board shuttle buses, instead of upon arrival at the factory.

They also provided recommendations and clarifications regarding how to notify local public health officials of cases and asked the company to strengthen its mandate of face coverings.

The San Francisco Bay area was the first region in the US to shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus and has been cautious about reopening. Tesla is one of the county's largest employers, with more than 11,000 Fremont workers furloughed, according to a notice filed with the state.