SpaceX’s coronavirus outbreak leaves 132 infected at California headquarters, health officials say


SpaceX has had an outbreak of 132 coronavirus cases at its headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., according to the Los Angeles County Health Department, as the hard-charging space company founded by Elon Musk has kept a torrid pace of rocket launches heading into the new year.

A mock-up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.The outbreak was the largest among businesses in Los Angeles County, officials said, and comes as the omicron variant is spreading rapidly across the United States and around the world. Almost 90 countries have now reported omicron cases, sparking fresh concerns for already strained health systems, communities and economies.

In L.A. County, a FedEx facility had the second-highest number of people test positive, with 85, and a Northrop Grumman facility had 33. Almost 6,000 employees work at SpaceX’s headquarters, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing court documents.

In California, where the average number of new cases being recorded daily has spiked by 64 percent according to Washington Post tracking, a statewide mandate requiring residents to wear masks indoors took effect last week and is expected to last until mid-January. People are asked to wear a face covering regardless of their vaccination status in a bid to slow transmission of the virus.

“We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy,” Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s health agency, said last week as New York also announced an indoor mask mandate. “Frankly, I am too,” but masks are a “tool that we know has worked and can work.”

This is not the first time outbreaks have been reported at facilities led by Musk.

Last year, Musk defied efforts by local officials to shut down his Tesla plant in the San Francisco area despite a countywide stay-home order, daring officials to arrest him. “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” Musk wrote on Twitter in May 2020. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

County-level data obtained by a legal transparency website covering the months between May and December last year showed there were about 450 total reported cases at the plant, which employs about 10,000, The Post previously reported.

Tesla also came under fire for its treatment of employees after some who expressed concern about coronavirus exposure said they were issued termination notices after they did not return to work, The Post reported last year.

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