Op-Ed: What is an Essential Business?

by Harrison Brown '20 and Ben Silverman '20

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses that are not “essential” have been ordered to close. While we all know that it means that those businesses are important and necessary enough to keep open during these times, what’s the best way to define “essential”? It means “required to have or need.”

Let’s forget about the world health crisis for a minute. Where do we go for something that’s required to have? 1) the grocery store, 2) the doctor, 3) the veterinarian, 4) home repair store,  5) police/firefighters. We could go on and on for a foreseeable amount of time, but those are some of the main businesses that come to mind when we think of businesses that are required to be there for us to live.

  Some states have their own definition of “essential” during this pandemic. Believe it or not, governor Ron DeSantis has classified pro sports as an essential business in Florida. Many states have classified gun shops as essential as well as bowling alleys, hair/nail salons, and movie theaters.

How are we required to have those things? Sure, they are nice to have to help our appearance look better and for entertainment, but would a lot of people die if we didn’t have access to those things? We might go crazy for some time but can survive without them. Companies have even made new movie releases available at home, further showing that movie theaters are not needed. It’s also bad to have people that close together, as President Donald Trump has said. When pro sports come back with butts in seats, fans will be separated by a few seats and have to wear masks.

What do gun shops have to offer to label them “essential,” though? Well, while they sell guns, they also repair them. That could be necessary for policemen or FBI agents, which are absolutely essential jobs.

While some states may get the eyebrow raise for things like that, it’s understandable that many want to reopen since citizens have lost their jobs and the number of cases nationwide is starting to decline. As long as they ease into it and separate people by a seat or two per se, why not give it a shot? If it backfires, then companies and businesses can always go back to square one.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agencies (CISA) developed a list of essential critical infrastructure workers. CISA said, “This advisory guidance and accompanying list are intended to support state, local, tribal, territorial and industry partners in identifying the critical infrastructure sectors and the essential workers needed to maintain the services and functions Americans depend on daily and that need to be able to operate resiliently during the COVID-19 pandemic response.”

In the map below, via the Wall Street Journal, dark blue means that the state has comprehensive restrictions on business and travel, light blue means that there are still some restrictions in those states, yellow means that the state has lifted many restrictions, and white means those states have announced their plans to lift restrictions.

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Essential businesses aren’t just the bare minimums of what society needs - sure, a grocery store is just about the most essential business. But, it has a very open definition. Entertainment and personal businesses are making stretches to open, as mentioned previously. However, these are also essential. Our entire society has completely changed, and the goal isn’t to restore society to how it was before covid-19 unrailed the year. It’s to keep any semblance of normalcy and keep us operating as humans. It’s normal to want to go bowling, or get your favorite ice cream, but it's not essential that you get your mint chip.