Features Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 8

Essential Businesses: A Glimpse Into How They Are Defined

By Ally Hoogs

Photography by Jane Wilson

Throughout Walnut Creek and  California, there has been some major re-thinking on what is “essential” to our communities. Some businesses are working remotely, millions of people are losing their jobs to adhere to social distancing protocols, and businesses are limiting the amount of people in their stores at a time. 

Some businesses, however, are still open and may be putting individuals in the community unnecessarily at risk by doing so. Businesses that only sell a few essential items are deemed by the government as crucial but that may only be a matter of definition.

While the government has outlined the businesses that are allowed to stay open, they fail to explain in detail exactly how store owners should identify certain services as “essential’ to the public, without using their opinions. 

A report written by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency noted that 

“Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion,” which was mentioned to warn businesses that if they stay open, they are still required to follow the social distancing protocols. 

On the same page, they described businesses who fall into “16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks… are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” These businesses would be entitled to stay open to either maintain the economy/ or aid the people. 

These sectors are self explanatory, when it comes to businesses that fall into: Chemicals, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial bases, emergency services, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information & technology, nuclear reactors/materials, and waste, transportation systems, or water and wastewater systems. Deemed by the government as essential, they are now allowed to remain open despite the increasing contamination tensions across the board. 

An LL student summed these sectors up well, saying that “Anything that is required to live or stay healthy,” should remain open in order to help the general public. This, however, doesn’t necessarily explain what should remain open or how these businesses are going to have to run, which is a main struggle for officials when lining out what gets to stay open. 

When asked what is considered an essential business, the most common responses from Las Lomas students and teachers was grocery stores and hospitals. None of the responses named businesses that extend further than human necessities, such as food, water, medical services and electricity.