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Several states have issued orders mandating that everyone aside from nonessential workers stay home as most businesses are forced to temporarily close in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Although everyone would argue that they're essential to their employers, lawmakers have dwindled the list to several industries deemed too critical to be halted during the crisis. While states can designate what qualifies as essential, the standard definition of an essential employee is someone that performs work involving the safety of human life and the protection of property, according to the 2013 Essential Services Act.


The meaning generally applies to workers in law enforcement and public safety, food production, health care providers and emergency personnel, among others. As the pandemic continues to spread and states take tough measures to contain it, workers in other industries are being added to the list:

Workers conducting COVID-19 research and testing.

Pharmacy employees who are necessary for filling prescriptions.

Workers who provide security services to hospitals and other critical industries.

Mass transit and airport workers.

Food and agricultural workers, to include those who work in grocery stores and restaurants. Many restaurants in a growing number of states are only providing delivery and takeout service only.

Energy sector employees considered critical to sustaining utilities, telecommunications and natural gas, among others. Gas station employees are included.

Mortuary and funeral service workers, including crematoriums and cemetery workers.

Employees who manufacture safety and sanitary products, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food processing.

Workers who support national security commitments and the military.

Water and wastewater employees needed to manage drinking water supplies.

Bank employees needed to process transactions and payments, along with customer service workers at call centers. Payroll and certain insurance workers also apply. Some of those functions can be done remotely, as many companies are asking employees to work from home if possible.

Vendors that provide essential services or products like logistics, child care services, along with hardware and supply stores.

The news media.

Building cleaners and janitors.

Those who work in trash collection and disposal, animal shelters, certain warehouse and fulfillment centers, food banks and mail and shipping service centers. Certain charities also apply.

In California, employees in the cannabis industry are deemed essential. The state has enacted some of the most far-reaching measures in the country to protect its 40 million residents.

Governments across the country are urging residents to only venture outside for health care, to obtain necessary supplies or to engage in solo outdoor activities. In an effort to enforce the new restrictions, some California police departments are turning to drones to enforce lockdown rules.


As of Monday, 367,038 cases had been confirmed worldwide, 41,167 of which are in the U.S. The disease has accounted for at least 16,097 deaths around the world, including 485 people in the U.S.

Fox News' James Rogers contributed to this report.