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On The Job: Essential businesses bring people together during pandemic

By ThisIsReno

By Ty O’Neil and Bob Conrad | Images: Ty O’Neil

Much of Nevada, and the country for that matter, are living in some form of quarantine, but those who fall under the category of “essential” remain on the job.

Despite many businesses being closed, or operating with employees working from home, the factories and warehouses at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center appear full to the brim.

Health experts say social distancing is the only way to keep this virus contained, but government officials also recognize services must be maintained, which is why many of these businesses are considered essential.

Governor Steve Sisolak earlier this week mandated that essential businesses provide protections for employees. One reason why could be places like the industrial center, which seems to be an aberration from the government’s order of social distancing, use of masks and the use of other protective gear.    

Tesla, a major employer at the TRI Center, announced a large reduction in staff — after Tesla CEO Elon Musk dismissed COVID-19 as overblown — but those who are familiar with the industrial complex know that the Tesla/Panasonic facility is but one of many.

Other businesses in the complex include Jet.com, a Walmart distribution center, Chewy and PetSmart, Blockchains and Chart Industries.

Screengrab from Unacast.com’s Social Distancing Scoreboard

Data source Unacast.com ranks geographic areas by letter grade on its Social Distancing Scoreboard.

Storey County, where the industrial complex resides, has consistently ranked worse than many of Nevada’s more highly-populated counties like Washoe and Clark.

Storey County is the smallest county in the state of Nevada with just over 4,000 residents. Before the recently announced cuts, Tesla alone was reported to have 7,000 employees at its Gigafactory.

This seems to show a pattern of employees primarily living outside of Storey County who may be practicing social distancing at home, but abandoning the practice while inside businesses at the industrial complex.

Parking lots at the center are filled day and night, packing in employees to fulfill the increase in online orders.

TRI Center companies are unwilling to talk to the media. Gathering information on social distancing and sanitation practices inside each facility is difficult, and media like myself must rely on our sources and what we can see from a distance.

Multiple gatherings of people, from construction crews to people on their lunch breaks, were witnessed from afar as part of this report.

Do you work in one of these facilities? Get in touch if you want to share what it is like. We do not have to use your name or place of employment.

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