What Is Considered An “Essential Business” During The Coronavirus Outbreak?

Photo: Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Getty Images.
The coronavirus pandemic is quickly introducing new ways of life to the general public: people are singing 20-second tunes while thoroughly washing their hands, groceries, and hand sanitizers are flying off the shelves. New words are also finding their way into our vocabulary: between “social distancing” and “flattening the curve,” references to COVID-19 and how to stop it are continuing to upend our everyday thoughts.
Now, amid a series of announcements from President Trump saying that group gatherings will be limited across the country to 10 people are less, and businesses are shuttering ahead of massive lock downs, many are referring to "essential businesses" as immune from these processes. But what are these essential businesses that lawmakers have deemed important enough to remain open as states around the U.S. begin to lockdown? And what is considered a non-essential business?
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Essential businesses are ones that the public rely on in their day-to-day life. This includes banks, hospitals, supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, post offices, and the like. They carry supplies necessary for survival, both in the long and short-term. In contrast, non-essential businesses are those that people frequent for pleasure, like gyms, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and concert halls, among others. Many non-essential businesses are hubs of social interaction, making the effects of the coronavirus sting all the more detrimental for the masses who are effectively practicing social distancing.
According to both state-wide and nation-wide announcements, essential businesses will remain open in most states as lawmakers around the U.S. figure out their next move regarding the coronavirus. Certain rules will be in place for the few non-essential businesses that will remain open, notably restaurants and stores in New York and Philadelphia. Food and drinks will be take-out and delivery only for both cities. Stores will also remain open in New York City, but will have a curfew of 8 p.m. Store owners also have the option of choosing to temporarily close down on their own.
States in the U.S. are moving at different speeds when it comes to handling essential and non-essential businesses. New York has announced the indefinite closure of non-essential businesses including movie theaters, gyms, concert venues and more; Broadway theaters are, for now, scheduled to reopen on April 12.
Officials from California’s Bay Area announced more serious action on locking down both essential and non-essential businesses. Bay Area counties are already participating in a "shelter-in-place" order, along with Los Angeles and most recently New York. Just short of a complete lockdown, residents are expected to stay in their homes as much as possible, though certain restaurants and grocery stores will remain open, as well as hospitals and shelters. “Non-essential” modes of travel are being described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit,” and while they are not completely banned, they are going to be heavily restricted for now.
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom also called for the state’s senior citizens to self-isolate, given their susceptibility to the coronavirus. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also announced the closure of all non-essential businesses lasting until at least March 27.
California's lockdown measures paved the way for other cities to have non-essential businesses close for the duration of COVID-19 like Washington and New York, where a high number of cases are reportedly spreading across each state. Now, as many struggle to navigate the New Normal after businesses continue to close, it's important to find ways to support local businesses that may be losing revenue during the coronavirus outbreak.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources
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