Has Storey County Done Everything Possible To Protect The Public During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
As the nation is caught in the stranglehold of the COVID-19 virus, much is being said about the way America is handling the crisis. With a couple of glaring exceptions, Storey County businesses reacted immediately and decisively when called on by Governor Sisolak to close non-essential businesses. But did Storey County leadership do everything within their power to flatten the rate of infection curve? In China, Italy, and Iran, healthcare infrastructure has been overwhelmed because forceful action was not taken quickly enough.
Tesla announced on March 26th they would be telling 75% of their “non-essential” Gigafactory workforce to stay home. This raises the obvious question as to why Tesla waited so long to take action. The more obvious and crucial question on my mind is why Storey County apparently took no action to protect the safety of the thousands of Tesla and Panasonic workers and their families.
What did they know and when did they know it?
A source in Storey County Fire Department spoke with The Teller on March 24th. Under the condition of anonymity, they told me “There has been an overwhelming number of employees since then (March 22nd when the first case was reported ) that match the bill. (Storey County Fire) Chief Nevin has been trying/demanding to get them to close down for over a week (March 15th?). They reached out to the sheriff and he said that he doesn’t believe that there’s any reason for them to shut down at this time so they have continued to run on a normal schedule. We (SCFD) have basically been told not to even go in the building”
Timeline of Events
March 13th C Street Merchants close shops
March 29th Panasonic announces a Tesla Gigafactory employee tested positive for COVID-19 on the 22nd
(screen shots provided at the bottom of this article)
America and Virginia City Shelters in Place
C Street is a literal ghost town with all non-food service businesses shuttered. Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman’s Mustang Ranch brothel reluctantly clothed itself five days after the rest of the non-essential businesses did. The Bunny Ranch put their clothes on the next day.
The impact on our country, Nevada and Storey County is potentially devastating. Everyone is affected; an astonishing 3 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past weeks.
Tesla has been remarkably irresponsible.
While Twitter has shut down accounts under newly adopted rules, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has, as usual, roamed freely and recklessly about the Twitter cabin. He has taken to his favorite Social Media platform to hop from irresponsible crassness dismissing the COVID-19 crisis with tweet after tweet, to reminding the world of his insane Messiah Complex as the Savior of Humanity.
Musk defiantly thumbed his nose at an Alameda County Sheriff’s order to close Tesla’s Fremont factory after 6 Bay Area counties issued the shelter in place orders. He told employees to show up for work unless they were sick and sent an email stating the “coronavirus panic is worse than the virus itself”. With his other thumb, Elon ignored Buffalo Law Enforcement officers refusing to close Gigafactory 2. Days later he complied with both orders.
Meanwhile In Storey County
News of a Tesla Gigafactory employee testing positive made it’s way around the internet yesterday. Panasonic told their employees that a Tesla employee who last reported to work on March 22nd had tested positive for COVID-19. The email also said that no Panasonic employees have tested positive (see the screenshots of the announcement posted below). On March 20th I received a report of 19 positive cases at Tesla but could not confirm the claim with Washoe County. This number corresponded with a press release on Washoe County’s website.
I spoke with Washoe County’s Adam Mayberry last week. He told me that Washoe County launched a website to inform the public about COVID-19. “While we do provide age and other demographics on the victims of the virus, we do not track their source of infection locations” Mayberry explained. I could not find the demographic data he referred to on the website’s dashboard. Mayberry would not comment on the report of 19 cases at Tesla.
Essential or Non-Essential? That is the Question.
I spoke with Sheriff Antinoro who confirmed last Wednesday that Tesla met the Governor’s “essential business” requirement and would remain open. “In meeting with people from the Governor’s and Attorney General’s Offices, while they didn’t mention Tesla specifically, it was clear they fell within the loose definition of essential businesses,” Antinoro explained.
“People began contacting our office within minutes of the Governor’s announcement demanding I shut Tesla down. I had to remind them I have no legal authority to do so. The County Commissioners, the County Manager, and Community Development can revoke their business license if they feel the situation warrants it,” he continued.
“If they choose to revoke their business license, my office is the enforcement arm of the county and I would be the person enforcing the action. Happily, both the United States and Nevada Constitutions prevent me from taking action independently,” Antinoro told The Teller.
We agree with him. Storey County residents who found themselves in the unfriendly crosshairs of Sheriff Jim Miller will remind you why Antinoro continues to be a breath of fresh legal air here in The Richest Place On Earth.
Panasonic Proves They are the Adults in the Gigafactory. Again.
In contrast to the County’s response, Panasonic took swift action when it announced on March 20th they were ramping down operations at the Gigafactory and would shutter operations for two weeks. Tesla waited until March 27th to announce, through Storey County Manager Austin Osborne, they would tell 75% of their workforce to shelter in place.
A Panasonic employee who spoke with The Teller on the condition of anonymity explained. “There’s not a lot of people still here. If you don’t feel safe coming to work they said no one will get in trouble for not coming in. The people that are here wanna work. Everyone is stressed. We’re working on getting all our material into batteries and getting the machines ready to start right up when we come back. We’re getting paid for the 2 weeks we’re closed. But the unknown of when we’ll come back makes everyone nervous.”
Looks like the rest of the children at the Gigafactory are (finally) following the lead of the grownups in the room.
All of this raises serious questions about how Tesla and Storey County responded to their responsibility to public safety. Storey County stated that businesses should “find creative ways to stay open”. COVID-19’s has a frightening ability to spread. The impact COVID-19 could have on Nevada’s health system is terrifying.
Leadership is a Rare Commodity
There is no such thing as overreaction with lives at stake. There is no excuse for inaction. Some folks think this whole thing is overblown, and some suggest it is a ploy to deploy “medical martial law”. Evidence from around the globe unmistakably shows us that we have to be all-in on this thing.
The question we all should have for Storey County’s Manager and Commissioners is what data and information were you looking at that told you to go against the decisions made by Governors of multiple states including Nevada’s, to shut down ALL non-essential businesses? What nanoparticle in the mountain of evidence that a full shutdown is the only way to stop the spread of COVID-19 did you decide to latch on to justify it was a good idea to keep Tesla and Panasonic open?
I am not accusing County leadership of not caring or in not putting sober measures in place to react to this incident. They did that and I know they care. I am accusing Storey County leaders of siding, yet again, on the side of special interests at the expense of residents and employees of Storey County and Northern Nevada.
New Cars Are Not Essential, Leadership is
Anyone paying attention knows that new cars are not essential to surviving this epidemic. Even Tesla said in its recent announcement that they are sending non-essential employees home. Elon Musk and Tesla acted unacceptably late in the game. Storey County should have shut them down on March 17th. While I pray it does not, this lack of decisive action could prove to be deadly.
Leadership is making the hard decisions….it is not hard to do nothing.
Storey County leadership: you have failed in your charter to keep us safe.
- You were wrong by looking for and parsing the governor’s words to benefit special interests at the expense of the residents and workers of Storey County.
- You were wrong to wait on the sidelines doing little to nothing other than issuing empty press releases.
- You were wrong to keep your own business open and thereby endangering your own employees and their families.
- You were wrong to allow Tesla to continue to endanger the lives of thousands of employees and their families.
The right thing to do is follow the leadership demonstrated by countries like Singapore and South Korea and the orders of our own President, Governor and other leaders across the United States.
Before you attack me as being a second guesser, being a nattering nabob of negativity, or by saying “you weren’t there” or “now is not the time to point fingers”, look at the mirror and point the finger of responsibility at yourself.
Remember that others asked you to shut down, that you got a detailed request from a Storey County health care worker fighting on the front lines explaining why you needed to act decisively and immediately.
Remember that you ignored our Governors directive regarding non-essential businesses as well as the decisions of numerous other Governors, who are in full accordance and in support of President Trump’s instructions, wishes, decrees and plan of operations. You ignored the best advice of the CDC, WHO, and NIH. You ignored the experience that other countries are having with this pandemic.
Remember that you had the same data and information everyone else had who made the hard decision to shut down early.
AND. YOU. DIDN’T. DO. IT.
You are free to take risks in a casino and in business, but not with people’s lives.
Your only job now is to protect our lives and after that to help rebuild our economy.
Not taking decisive leadership and demanding the Gigafactory shut down immediately shows how weak Storey County leadership can be when it really counts.
Panasonic’s message to its employees
Chief Nevin’s response to my “source” (as if I sit around and make this stuff up…):
“I can tell you that your “source” is completely wrong! I have not been trying to shut down the Tesla Gigafactory, my only concern is the safety and well being of my employees and the taxpayers and visitors of Storey County. We are following guidelines recommended by the CDC and the Quad County Public Health Preparedness to safeguard everyone who could be affected by the coronavirus.”