Coronavirus crisis: What is an essential business?


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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – With “safer-at-home” orders in place, more than half of Tampa Bay is being strongly encouraged to work from home, unless they’re working at what’s called an “essential business.”

Though the exact definition varies by location, an essential business is a business that is allowed or required to stay open during an emergency.

Pinellas County has a list of businesses it has deemed essential.

(Source: Pinellas County)

Most locales have been following guidelines issued by the Department of Homeland Security, which explains what industries and businesses are essential.

According to the guidelines, the following industries are considered essential to the infrastructure of the country:

Healthcare and public health

  • Hospital and laboratory personnel, caregivers, mental health workers, doctors, nurses, researchers, pharmacists, dentists, social workers, technicians, funeral home and cemetery workers.

Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders

  • Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians, 911 call center workers and those who oversee emergency service operations.

Communications and information technology

  • Technicians, operators, call centers, wireline and wireless providers, cable service providers, satellite operations, and manufacturers and distributors of communications equipment. Workers who support radio, television, and media service, including news reporters, weather forecasters, studio, and technicians for news gathering and reporting, data center operators, HVAC and electrical engineers, security personnel, IT managers, software and hardware engineers, and database administrators.


  • Workers at manufacturing plants, workers in laboratories, workers at distribution facilities, workers who transport basic raw chemical materials to the producers of industrial and consumer goods, including hand sanitizers, food and food additives, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and paper products.

Government facilities

  • Election personnel, building employees, security staff, trade officials, custom workers, educators

Critical manufacturing

  • Workers who manufacture materials and products for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, dam operations, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, defense industrial base

Defense industrial base

  • Workers who support the U.S. military, including aerospace; mechanical and software engineers, manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security staff; security personnel; intelligence support, aircraft and weapon systems mechanics and maintainers.


  • Utilities and telecommunications staffers, natural gas/propane workers, the electricity industry, engineers, cybersecurity/risk management staff, and environmental remediation.


  • Bank employees, employees at other financial/lending institutions

Food and agriculture

  • Grocery store employees, pharmacy worker, some restaurant workers, including delivery drivers, company cafeterias, animal agriculture workers, and the food and beverage industries, farmers, food processing workers, warehouse workers, and food truck delivery drivers.

Nuclear reactors, materials, and wasteTransportation systems

  • Mass transit workers, auto repair and maintenance workers, trash collectors, postal and shipping workers, air traffic controllers, air transportation employees, dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers, truck stop and rest area workers, and workers who maintain and inspect infrastructure.

Public Works

  • Workers who inspect and maintain dams, locks, levees, bridges, sewer main breaks, traffic signals and buried/underground utilities.


  • Employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure.

Both Hillsborough and Pinelllas counties have issued “safer-at-home” orders, which restrict groups and travel, in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. People will still be allowed to go to places like the grocery store and the gas station or to the hospital.

The Pinellas County order went into effect on Thursday. Hillsborough’s order goes into effect Friday night at 10 p.m.


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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