Story at a glance
- Elon Musk is the founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.
- The tech mogul and billionaire has downplayed the risk of coronavirus infection against scientific research.
- His statement comes as fewer Americans say they will get the initial COVID-19 vaccine when available.
Elon Musk told The New York Times he and his kids won’t get a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available, claiming he is “not at risk for COVID, nor are my kids.” So does the Musk family have some sort of immunity that the more than 1 million people who have died of coronavirus didn’t?
The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla also told The New York Times he thinks he had COVID-19 in January and now wears a mask at his company’s factory, but has repeatedly downplayed the risk of infection.
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“I think the reality of Covid is that it is dangerous if you’re elderly and have pre-existing conditions,” he told the Times in July. “It absolutely makes sense to have a lockdown if you’re vulnerable, but I do not think it makes sense to have a lockdown if you’re not vulnerable.”
The problem with that is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported widespread asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, meaning that even if you don’t show symptoms of coronavirus, you can still spread it. And not everyone who has died of COVID-19 was vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions or age. In recent months coronavirus cases have spiked among young people as social distancing restrictions were loosened and schools reopened.
It’s not clear why Musk believes he or his family, including his newborn child with artist Grimes (whose real name is Claire Elise Boucher), are exempt to the risk of coronavirus. But a recent poll says Americans are also wavering in their willingness to take the first COVID-19 vaccine available, with 60 percent of respondents saying it’s not very or not at all likely.
For those who are undecided, public figures such as Musk may influence whether or not they get the vaccine — and whether the country reaches herd immunity. On Twitter, where Musk has 39 million followers, the tech giant has endorsed hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has not been shown to effectively treat COVID-19, and questioned the data around coronavirus deaths.
The coronavirus panic is dumb
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2020
This isn’t the first time Musk has been criticized for spreading misinformation during the pandemic. But while Twitter has said it would require users to remove Tweets denying established scientific facts, such as the risk of COVID-19 infection to children, it left Musk’s up, telling Business Insider the Tweets “didn’t violate its rules when looking at the overall context and conclusion.”
Kids are essentially immune, but elderly with existing conditions are vulnerable. Family gatherings with close contact between kids & grandparents probably most risky.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
He did violate local government orders in California by reopening his assembly plant in Alameda County and filed a lawsuit — which the company has since dropped.
Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020
Two Tesla workers told The Washington Post they were fired after taking unpaid leave to protect themselves and their families from the risk of infection, and in July several employees reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
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