- Tesla CEO Elon Musk told employees in an email that they didn’t have to come to work if they’re sick or concerned about the novel coronavirus.
- Musk said that, to his knowledge, no Tesla employees had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
- He also cautioned Tesla employees to be mindful about both large and small gatherings.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Monday in an email to the electric-car maker’s employees that they didn’t have to work if they’re sick or concerned about the novel coronavirus. Business Insider viewed photos of the email.
“I’d like to be super clear that if you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work,” Musk said. “I will personally be at work, but that’s just me. Totally ok if you want to stay home for any reason.”
Tesla had previously instructed employees who felt unwell or might have been exposed to the coronavirus to alert the company and stay home but did not extend that policy to those who were only worried about the virus.
Musk said in the Monday email that he was not aware of any Tesla employees testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, but would alert the company if that changed. He also said he believed the public’s fear of the coronavirus could backfire by diverting too many resources away from some with pressing medical needs.
“My frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself,” he said. “If there is a massive redirection of medical resources out of proportion to the danger, it will result in less available care to those with critical medical needs, which does not serve the greater good.”
But Musk overall took a more serious tone toward the coronavirus than he did in a March 6 tweet, in which he called fear surrounding the virus “dumb,” cautioning Tesla employees to be alert to the dangers of both large and small gatherings.
“Much is made of public gatherings, but please be cautious of family gatherings too,” he said. “What is relatively harmless to a child can be dangerous to grandparents.”
Musk also highlighted the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling it “great” and saying its measurement of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US was “worth watching closely.”
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk’s email to Tesla employees contrasted one he sent to the workforce at SpaceX, where he also serves as CEO, on Friday. Musk told SpaceX employees that the odds of dying from COVID-19 were much lower than those of being killed in a car crash, a comparison that drew criticism from health experts who told BuzzFeed it was imprecise and shifted focus away from efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier this year, the coronavirus forced Tesla to briefly close its factory in Shanghai and its stores throughout mainland China. The virus has also disrupted Tesla’s supply chain, leading the electric-car maker to install old hardware for Autopilot, its advanced driver-assistance system, in China-made Model 3 sedans. Tesla warned in its most recent annual report that a health epidemic like the coronavirus could have a negative financial impact on the company.
The coronavirus has infected over 182,000 people and killed more than 7,000. The vast majority of confirmed cases have been in China, though the coronavirus has been found in over 145 countries. There have been more than 4,600 confirmed cases in the US, and at least 91 reported deaths. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.
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