Many businesses were forced to close their facilities to the public as local governments implemented measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Businesses deemed “non-essential” could no longer welcome customers into their offices and stores, prompting many people to wonder just why some businesses are considered “essential” while others are not.
According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, essential businesses and workers are those who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continued critical infrastructure viability. The CISA notes functioning critical infrastructure is imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency. That infrastructure promotes public health and safety and safeguards community well-being.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, residents may not have given much thought to the people who help to keep their communities running smoothly. But now more than ever, it’s vital to understand what essential workers do, and how their efforts during this uncertain time are helping us all.
Sanitation workers ride in garbage trucks and collect trash from local businesses and residents. These workers’ efforts are often taken for granted, but their work has been especially important during the COVID-19 outbreak. Stay-at-home measures have produced more residential garbage, and sanitation workers have ensured that garbage is still being taken away. During a time when people are being urged to stay home as much as possible, these vital workers are still moving from house to house in service of their communities, making them unsung heroes of this outbreak.
The efforts of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 outbreak have been nothing short of heroic. Doctors and nurses risk their health each day to treat patients with COVID-19 as well as the myriad other conditions and diseases that continue to affect people across the globe. But the National Institutes of Health note that healthcare workers also comprise administrative staffs, aides, lab technicians, and other healthcare industry professionals, many of whom have continued to go to work throughout this crisis. These people provide vital services that have kept people safe and healthy during this uncertain time.
Postal carriers also perform vital services every day. For aging men and women confined to their homes while stay-at-home orders are in place, postal carriers may be delivering the only consistent communications with the outside world they receive each day. Like sanitation workers, postal carriers are showing up for work each day despite the risks of traveling from house to house. In addition to postal carriers, in-office postal workers are working diligently each day to sort letters and packages, doing so during a time when many people are fearful of coming into contact with anything they have not disinfected. These efforts are helping people receive necessary supplies, including medications and masks, while also ensuring that people continue to receive vital communications from local governments, financial advisors, banks, and other institutions.
As unemployment rates soar across much of the globe, workers in the financial sector are helping people confront the economic uncertainty that arises from job loss and furloughs. Banking administrators and executives have continued to help customers learn about assistance programs, and many institutions have relaxed penalties and payment deadlines for customers struggling to make ends meet.
Grocery store workers have been among the hardest working men and women during the COVID-19 crisis. Shelves are emptying rapidly, and grocery workers are working diligently to deliver goods, unload trucks, restock shelves, and clean stores each night in order to keep communities safe and well fed.
The tireless efforts of essential workers has helped communities stay strong during the COVID-19 outbreak. Such efforts may go unnoticed, but it’s important that communities recognize and acknowledge the vital services these workers provide.