Business Insider Edition

SpaceX VP reportedly cites Elon Musk’s ‘coronavirus panic is dumb’ tweet to concerned employees

Dave Mosher , Business Insider US
 Mar 22, 2020, 09:15 AM
A mock up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is displayed during a media tour of SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory on August 13, 2018, in Hawthorne, California.
  • SpaceX has not closed its facilities despite the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, BuzzFeed reported on Friday.
  • Elon Musk, the company's founder and CEO, has downplayed the pandemic. Musk said on Twitter last week that "the coronavirus is dumb."
  • According to BuzzFeed, when word spread among SpaceX's Redmond office that an employee's partner had tested positive for COVID-19, an unnamed SpaceX vice president told employees that offices wouldn't close, citing Musk's tweet.
  • At least 258,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and more than 11,000 have died.
  • SpaceX and Greg Marick, the CEO of Xplor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing many US businesses to restrict office access, ask employees to work from home, or shut down.

Yet in spite of the rapid spread of the virus - and an order by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti to close "non-essential businesses" in the city, where SpaceX is headquartered - the rocket company appears to be humming along as normal.

Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder, has told employees that they should not come in to work if they feel sick, according to an email leaked to BuzzFeed. He has also publicly offered to use his companies, including Tesla, to build ventilator machines required to help patients with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

But the CEO has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the outbreak, spread information that runs counter to the latest scientific research, and questioned the need for additional ventilators as medical professionals warned of an impending crisis in providing critical care.

In a tweet last week, Musk said "the coronavirus panic is dumb."

Now a new report by BuzzFeed reporters Ryan Mac and Caroline Hawkins, published Friday, suggests that SpaceX leadership has declined to shutter even potentially affected facilities.

In one case, according to two unnamed sources referenced in the article, workers at the company's Redmond office (where SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet facilities are based) heard "through word of mouth that a colleague's partner had tested positive for the coronavirus and that the SpaceX employee would be isolating themselves."

BuzzFeed said the same two sources said "a company vice president told Seattle employees that, despite their health concerns, he could not shut the office." The vice president then cited Musk's aforementioned tweet.

The report also detailed claims by workers at a childcare center and school on SpaceX's LA campus, which is run by the company Xplor.

BuzzFeed wrote that one Xplor employee, who was not named for fear of reprisal, said:

"I have personally witnessed multiple employees that are showing signs of the coronavirus and because of the position of SpaceX management, those employees continue to work in a facility with around 5,000 employees and a childcare facility. [...] Not only is SpaceX putting direct employees in danger, but the children and employees of the school on campus are also put at risk all because of one man's ignorance."

At least 260,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 11,000 have died. To limit the spread of infection, experts recommend avoiding large gatherings and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others.

SpaceX and Greg Marick, the CEO of Xplor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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