By John Ramos


BERKELEY (KPIX) – When the COVID-19 shutdown began, we were “all in this together,” but as some businesses like Tesla are allowed to reopen in defiance of the shelter in place order, there is growing resentment among those that can’t.

Tesla’s ability to defy Alameda County’s health directive with no consequences sent a strong message to owners of businesses that are still shut down.

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“To me, if I was a business owner and I was playing by the rules and somebody broke the rules and nothing happened to them, I think I would probably, maybe look at something different, too,” said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

The resentment can be seen at the corner of Telegraph and Ashby, in Berkeley.

“At the beginning we immediately closed our store, shut off our lights, put up messages to the community saying ‘we’re all in this together and we’ll be back,” said Marcy Simon, co-owner of Ashby Flowers.

But even now, the tiny shop is not allowed to bring flowers outside for curbside pickup by customers. It’s legal in the rest of Alameda County but Berkeley has its own health rules that say florists can only deliver. Meanwhile large Whole Foods Market right next to it–which also sells flowers—has a long line of people waiting to get inside.

Simon is like a lot of others who thought they were doing the right thing, but are now starting to get mad.

“I think that many people are now definitely looking for ways to get around the rules, there’s no question about it,” she said.

Clinical psychologist Judye Hess says that shouldn’t be a surprise. She says people naturally lose respect for laws when it feels like they’re being unfairly applied.

“I think it incites some kind of rebellion that often will go back to their childhood when their brother or sister was getting more than they were,” Hess said.

She attributes it to uneven rules and a lack of strong leadership and wonders if social disorder may increase because of it.

“I think it could really turn into something like that, where there’s just, everybody out for themselves and not being willing to go on like that,” Hess said.

Back at the flower shop they seem pretty sure what’s going to happen.

“I think people are going to start defying the rules much more now that Tesla has done that, for sure,” said Simon. “We won’t, but others will.”

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