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Tesla's Defiance To Alameda County Health Order Raises Questions Of Fairness

FREMONT (KPIX 5) -- Elon Musk's move to reopen the Tesla plant in defiance of Alameda County's health order doesn't just raise safety concerns; it also raises questions about fairness to other businesses.

The parking lot at the Pacific Commons shopping center in Fremont is deserted with most of the large anchor stores shut down. But just down the road, the employee parking lot at the Tesla factory was jammed as CEO Elon Musk spearheads a campaign to get the factory operating again despite ongoing shelter-in-place restrictions.

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"He's putting workers at risk, I think," said Fremont resident Carol Quinn. "I'm sure they haven't done all the protocols that need to be done to keep people safe in that factory."

When Tesla CEO Elon Musk defied the health order and reopened his plant Monday, it put the county in a difficult position: whether to force the shutdown of one of its biggest employers.

"I think they should open," said Stephanie Moniz, a dental assistant who remains out of work. "I mean, it's a big company. Everybody relies on that. I have family members who live here in Fremont who are not working because the company's closed."

The county says it is reviewing Tesla's safety measures, but if the company is allowed to stay open, what does that say for small businesses like the Prime Nails Salon?

Owner Teresa Ngo doesn't have billions of dollars to tide her over. She hasn't made a dime since being shut down on March 17, but still has to pay normal monthly rent to keep the business alive.

"If Tesla is open, we should be open too," she said.

Ngo has also installed safety measures like plastic screens between work stations. And unlike Tesla, which employs thousands of workers, Teresa's shop only has five. Or at least it did until it was shut down for being too much of a health risk.

"If everyone is closed for safety, it's ok…fair. But if some are open, some closed, I don't think that's fair. Doesn't matter if it's big business or small business, you know?" she said.

Even Stephanie Moniz, who wants to see Tesla reopen, can see the problem it causes.

"Because then the other companies would say, 'Well, why is Tesla opening and we can't open?'" Moniz said.

No one knows how the county will react to Elon Musk's defiance. But a lot of people who willingly obeyed the health order will be watching to see just how fair the system is going to be.

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