Tesla‘s early reopening in California’s Bay Area during the coronavirus pandemic is still being handled on the local level, but California Attorney Xavier Becerra said he’s “ready to enforce” violations of the state’s orders.
“The governor has issued certain declarations and where there is some discretion, the local authorities, the county officials, have the opportunity to implement as they see fit for their county,” Becerra said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” Wednesday. “In this case, the conversation is going on between Tesla and the county. But at the state level, we’re ready to enforce if we find that anyone is violating the state orders issued by the governor.”
Shares of Tesla were down about 3% Wednesday afternoon.
The comments come as county officials in Alameda appear to be inching toward an agreement with Tesla over its reopening plans, but questions remain about whether the company’s protocols will meet government standards. Late Tuesday night local time, the Alameda County Public Health Department released a statement saying it had reviewed Tesla’s reopening plan for the factory and “held productive discussions” with its representatives.
“If Tesla’s Prevention and Control Plan includes these updates, and the public health indicators remain stable or improve, we have agreed that Tesla can begin to augment their Minimum Business Operations this week in preparation for possible reopening as soon as next week,” the department said in the statement, adding that it would work with the Fremont Police Department to ensure Tesla adhere’s to worker safety procedures like social distancing.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk pushed ahead with reopening the company’s Fremont, Calif. plant prior to those discussions while the state remains under a stay-at-home order. Tesla scheduled shifts for employees to return to the factory beginning this week and local TV crews captured footage of employees’ cars entering the facility’s parking lot Monday.
On Friday, as news of Tesla’s reopening plans trickled out, Alameda County officials said they had “not given the green light” to Tesla to reopen. Over the weekend, Musk threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters out of California and sued the county over its enforcement of the state order.
Alameda county had entered a stand-off with Tesla at the beginning of the stay-at-home order when the company tried to claim essential service status to remain open. County officials rejected that claim.
Even Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom said he was not aware of Tesla’s reopening when speaking at a press conference Monday. He said he would need more details on the situation before commenting further.
Musk said in a tweet Monday he would take responsibility for the reopening if a legal standoff ensued. Musk previously called stay-at-home orders “fascist” on Tesla’s most recent earnings call.
“I will be on the line with everyone else,” Musk tweeted. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”