California attorney general says he’s ‘ready to enforce’ lockdown as Tesla reopens

Maya Shwayder

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra told CNBC on Wednesday that he was “ready to enforce” the state’s shelter-in-place orders after Tesla CEO Elon Musk reopened the car manufacturing plant in Fremont earlier than officials had allowed — but later clarified he would defer to local officials to determine if that was necessary

Becerra said the issue was still being discussed at the local level, but that “at the state level, we’re ready to enforce if we find that anyone is violating the state orders issued by the governor.”

In a statement to Digital Trends, a communications advisor from Becerra’s office clarified that quote was meant more generally, adding that local authorities could exercise discretion if permitted by the state.

“AG Becerra stressed that with the health of our nation in the balance right now, he hopes every business possible is providing critical protections to workers – for the sake of their health and safety,” the spokesperson said.

On Monday, Musk confirmed on Twitter that he had restarted factory operations “against Alameda County rules” and said that, “if anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

It’s the latest in a spiraling saga of Tesla — which released a statement touting the benefits of putting its employees back to work — versus California officials, who are trying to enforce the state’s quarantine and had declared that vehicle manufacturing was not an “essential business” that could reopen right now. Musk subsequently threatened to move his company’s operations to a different state and said he was filing a lawsuit against the county.

Alameda County Sheriff Sergeant Ray Kelly told Digital Trends on Monday that there hadn’t been any discussion of using enforcement to shut down the factory.

“We haven’t had that conversation,” he said.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Alameda County Health Services Agency said officials had held “productive discussions” with Tesla to allow it to reopen — seemingly backing down.

“We have agreed that Tesla can begin to augment their Minimum Business Operations this week in preparation for possible reopening next week,” the department said.

“We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures,” the statement continued.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.