Much of the Bay Area is now under a “shelter in place” lockdown due to the coronavirus, meaning residents aren’t allowed to go out unless it’s absolutely necessary.
One exception, the Los Angeles Times reports, is electric carmaker Tesla, which has thus far kept its Fremont factory open. CEO Elon Musk did back down slightly by Monday night, telling employees in a mass email they can stay home if they feel sick.
“If you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work,” he wrote, according to the Times.
The Times reports that Alameda County has classified Tesla as an “essential business,” meaning it’s allowed to keep operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But pressed on why the carmaker’s work is essential, the county struggled to answer. “That’s a good question,” a spokesperson told the paper. “We’re in uncharted waters right now.”
Musk has expressed skepticism about the coronavirus several times now. In early March, he mused on Twitter that the “coronavirus panic is dumb.” Musk also, in a separate email earlier this week, told workers that the “risk of death from C19 is vastly less than the risk of death from driving your car home.”
Even in his Monday night email, Musk couldn’t resist playing down the virus one more time.
“My frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself,” he wrote.
READ MORE: Stay home if you want, Musk tells Tesla workers as Fremont plant stays open [Los Angeles Times]
More on Starships: Elon Musk Tweets Vid of Starship Crumpling Up Like a Soda Can