Classifying ‘Essential Employees’ in the COVID-19 pandemic


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On Monday, Governor McMaster issued an Executive Order that limits gatherings to no more than three people, with a few exceptions; one of those exceptions being businesses.

As South Carolina remains without an official shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order from Governor McMaster, many continue to work at their places of employment, despite the government’s countless pleas for non-essential businesses to close, and non-essential employees to stay at home.

On Tuesday, Charleston’s Mayor John Tecklenburg issued a stay-at-home order, which will close all non-essential businesses in the city of Charleston. To clarify some of the confusion about who exactly qualifies as an essential worker, we turned to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DHS has made very clear who is part of the critical workforce. The list below was designed to insure little to no interruption to the functioning infrastructure of the country during the pandemic, according to DHS:

  • Emergency Services
    • Police officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and 911 call center workers.
  • Chemical Section 
    • Those working in laboratories, pharmaceuticals, distribution facilities, transportation of raw chemical materials to producers of goods, and manufacturing plants.
  • Energy
    • Telecommunication, engineers, cyber-security, natural gas/propane workers and utility personnel.
  • Commercial Facilities  
    • Those in motion picture studios, broadcast media, motels, hotels, stadiums, zoos, museums, casinos, real estate, shopping malls, and professional sports.
  • Food and Agriculture  
    • Those working in a grocery store, pharmacy, some restaurant workers, farmers, food processing workers, food truck delivery drivers, company cafeterias, and the food and beverage industries.
  • Financial Services 
    • Employees residing in banks and other financial/lending offices.
  • Healthcare and Public Health 
  • Communications/ Information Technology 
  • Critical Manufacturing 
    • Those who manufacture products for any of the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors.
  • Government Facilities
  • Dams
  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste 
    • Transportation Those in the areas of aviation, air-traffic, dispatchers, warehouse workers, truck and rest stop employees, maritime, mass transit, freight, and postal.
  • Transportation 
    • Those in the areas of aviation, air-traffic, dispatchers, warehouse workers, truck and rest stop employees, maritime, mass transit, freight, and postal.
  • Water and Wastewater 
  • Defense Industrial Base 
    • Those supporting the U.S. military via manufacturing, production, IT, security, intelligence, mechanics, engineers, and intelligence support.

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