132 SpaceX employees in California test positive for COVID-19

At least 132 employees at SpaceX’s California headquarters have tested positive for COVID-19, the largest non-residential confirmed case count in Los Angeles County.

The data was reported Monday by county health officials, noting that the figures are dynamic and subject to change. Nearly 6,000 employees work at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s headquarters in Hawthorne, near Los Angeles International Airport, according to the Los Angeles Times.

SpaceX told the Washington Post on Tuesday that “only one case was suspected to have occurred at work.” The numbers were from over several months, going back to September, when “several employees who work in the same area contracted COVID outside of work at a non-work-related event,” according to the report.

The company didn’t immediately respond to a request from Bloomberg seeking comment. L.A. county health officials also didn’t immediately respond.

The outbreak comes during a busy stretch for the company, which has completed four Falcon 9 launches since Dec. 9, including a cargo supply mission to the International Space Station early Tuesday.

The U.S. is grappling with a renewed surge amid the spread of the Omicron variant. Daily coronavirus infections nationwide jumped to the highest level since September, with almost 254,000 cases reported Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

Musk challenge

In March 2020, SpaceX founder Elon Musk challenged officials in Alameda County, the site of a Tesla Inc. factory, over pandemic restrictions that closed the auto plant in Fremont. Musk also sued the county before later dropping that lawsuit.

L.A. county’s public health office requires that all employees wear a face mask while working indoors, regardless of vaccination status, except when eating, drinking or alone in a room. For the most part, private employers like SpaceX aren’t included in the county’s strict policy on showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter some public venues such as restaurants, bars and gyms.

—With assistance from Sarah McGregor.

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