Panasonic told The Verge on Friday that it has resumed manufacturing batteries at Gigafactory, Tesla’s superfactory outside Reno, Nevada. But Panasonic is not scheduled to resume production at Tesla’s solar panel plant in Buffalo, N.Y., this weekend.
Mark Shima, president of Panasonic Solar North America (PSNA), told employees in an email obtained by The Verge that the company had to delay bringing workers back because the plant’s location in western New York did not meet new standards for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and could not reopen. “We will not resume production this Saturday, May 16,” Shima wrote in an email sent thursday. “The new target date depends on the situation of COVID-19 in Erie County, and I will announce it in the next few days.” “
The Western Region of New York has reached five of the seven criteria. However, in order to meet the requirements, the region’s net inpatient requirements fell for 14 consecutive days, or the average number of new hospitalizations per day for three days was less than 15. In addition, there will be a 14-day decline in hospital deaths — or, on average, less than five deaths per day for three days. Since the western state of New York has not yet met these standards, the Home Order was extended until May 28. If the region meets these two final criteria before then, Panasonic may be allowed to return workers to work.
Panasonic shut down operations at its New York plant in mid-March, and an employee later tested positive for COVID-19, The Verge previously reported. In the past few weeks, Panasonic has spent weeks preparing for workers to return to the Buffalo plant. According to one of the emails, the company even told workers to petition the governor’s office to allow the PSNA to resume operations early — an effort that seemed futile. Shima told employees in an email on May 9 that the company was planning to separate employees’ space 6 feet, provide masks and wipes, and install transparent guards on the production line.
Panasonic announced earlier this year that it would end its partnership with Tesla’s New York plant. Previously, it had said it would only hire workers there until the end of May and planned to pull out of the plant by September. A current employee told The Verge that at least one month of work remains to be done inside Panasonic’s North American plant.
A spokesman for Panasonic North America declined to comment on the delay in reopening the New York plant. The spokesman said Panasonic’s superplant in Nevada has been “working steadily overtime.” The Verge first reported earlier this week that Tesla had also resumed operations there. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak recently announced the state’s first phase of plans to allow some businesses to reopen, forcing some measures, such as masks, to be enforced.
“We are in regular communication with local and state officials, are following state guidance on the necessary businesses, and have strong health and safety protocols, including social distance and special cleaning measures,” a Panasonic spokesman said of the nevada plant’s re-working hours.
It was not immediately clear whether Tesla had resumed operations at its New York plant; the company did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment. Tesla recently reopened its car plant in Fremont, California, in violation of local public health orders, and finally reached an agreement with officials to resume full production. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has called the “in-place asylum order” aimed at stopping the spread of the new virus “fascist,” even said this week that if he arrested A.S. employees, he wanted to arrest them himself.
“Remember that one of the important policies of PSNA is compliance,” Shima said in an email to employees on Thursday. PSNA will always comply with state and local government laws and official instructions, even if those with the intentions of our PSNA business activities are different. “