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Who is Considered an “Essential” Worker during the Coronavirus Pandemic?


As of right now, there are more than 42,000+ cases of coronavirus in the US, and more than 500 Americans have lost their lives to the highly contagious disease. But these numbers are unfortunately increasing by the minute.

To help combat the spread of COVID-19, more and more states have ordered their millions of residents to stay home, allowing only workers deemed “essential” to fighting the pandemic to maintain their normal schedules. But how do you know who is and isn’t considered “essential”? To avoid any confusion, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has listed which industries and workers are in that special category.

The list of essential employees is advisory, however, as in there hasn’t yet been a federal directive. And, according to the DHS Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), there are 14 employment categories that the agency identifies as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers:

  1. Health care and public health workers

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

  1. Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders

Emergency management personnel, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians. The list also includes 911 call center workers and those who oversee emergency service operations.

3. Food and agriculture workers

Food and agriculture workers include those who work in grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants (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 are also on the list.

  1. Energy employees

This category includes utilities, telecommunications staffers, natural gas/propane workers, the electricity industry, engineers, cybersecurity/risk management staff, and environmental remediation.

  1. Water and wastewater

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

  1. Transportation and logistics

This includes 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.

  1. Public works

Public works employees who operate, inspect and maintain dams, locks, levees, and bridges. This also includes workers who oversee sewer main breaks, traffic signals and buried/underground utilities.

  1. 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, studio, and technicians for news gathering and reporting, are also included in this category, as well as data center operators, HVAC and electrical engineers, security personnel, IT managers, software and hardware engineers, and database administrators.

  1. Other community-based government operations and essential functions

Elections personnel, building employees, security staff, trade officials, weather forecasters, customs workers, and educators.

  1. Critical manufacturing

Workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, and the defense industrial base.

  1. Hazardous materials

Workers at nuclear facilities, workers managing medical waste, workers managing waste from pharmaceuticals and medical material production, and workers at laboratories processing test kits.

  1. Financial services

Bank employees and other financial/lending institutions, as well as those needed to keep ATM services available to consumers.

  1. Chemical workers

Workers supporting the chemical and industrial gas supply chains, including workers at chemical 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.

  1. Defense industrial base

Workers who support the essential services required to meet national security commitments to the federal government and U.S. military. These individuals, include but are not limited to aerospace; mechanical and software engineers, manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security staff; security personnel; intelligence support, aircraft and weapon systems mechanics and maintainers.

Personnel working for companies, and their subcontractors, who perform under contract to the Department of Defense providing materials and services to the Department of Defense, as well as government-owned/contractor-operated and government-owned/government-operated facilities.

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