Should I Stay Home? And Other Essential Questions…

Steve D. Kesten, Taylor Gaver

Harris County Judge, Lina Hidalgo, issued a “Stay Home Work Safe” order starting at 11:59 p.m. tonight, March 24, 2020, and expiring on April 3, 2020.  This order directs all individuals within Harris County to stay home unless such individual works for an essential business. For guidance on what businesses are essential and what workers are essential in those businesses, the Harris County Judge directs impacted persons to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) at the following website:  https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19.  CISA also published a Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response dated March 19, 2020, authored by Christopher C. Krebs (the “CISA Memorandum”).

CISA developed a list of workers essential to the operations of critical infrastructure of the United States.  This list of workers is divided into 16 sectors, and if a worker’s position is described in the CISA Memorandum, then such worker is considered by CISA to be “essential”.  Presumably, a CISA classified “essential” worker will not be in violation of the “stay-at-home” order by continuing to go to work.  Many of these 16 sectors are understandable (Healthcare and Public Health, Emergency Services, Food and Agriculture, Energy, Water and Wastewater Systems, Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste, Government Facilities, Transportation, Financial Services and Defense Industrial Base), while others are not as readily apparent (Commercial Facilities, Communications, Critical Manufacturing, Dams, Chemical and Information Technology).  The CISA list is extensive, so here are a list places which employ workers that CISA considers “essential” that may be of note:

  • Post-offices
  • UPS and other private postal and shipping companies
  • Banks
  • Blood Donation Centers
  • 911 call centers
  • Gas Stations
  • Truck Stops
  • Car Repair Shops
  • Airports
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Exterminators
  • Garbage Pick-up
  • Radio Stations
  • Television Stations
  • Manufacturers supporting essential supply chains

The ultimate determination of which businesses are essential is very fact specific, and while CISA guidance is not binding and is only given to assist state and local officials, it is useful as a starting point to analyze your business with a critical eye.  Please also be aware that despite workers being considered essential and continuing to work, each business must continue to comply with workplace safety rules and implement protocols to ensure a clean environment that practices social distancing.  If we can help your business in making an “essential business” determination or give advice on protocols to implement at your workplace, please contact us.