Coronavirus in Florida: Are you an essential employee?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA/WCMH) — With the possibility of a stay-at-home order in Florida, you might be wondering if you would be allowed to leave the house and go to work.

Over the past week, a number of states, including California and New York, have ordered millions of residents to stay home due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday he would not issue a stay-at-home order in Florida at this time.

As of Monday morning, Florida had more than 1,000 cases of the novel coronavirus. Hillsborough County has 58 cases, the most in Tampa Bay. Pinellas County had 38 cases and Sarasota County had 17.

A stay-at-home order is an order for residents to shelter in place in the event of an emergency. In this case, to prevent the spread of an epidemic or pandemic.

If Florida issues a lockdown, residents would be forced to stay home except to perform essential tasks or work at essential businesses.

So what essential work?

The Department of Homeland Security has issued guidelines explaining which industries and their employees are essential.

According to Homeland Security, the following industries are considered essential to the nation’s infrastructure:

  • Health and public health
    • Hospital and laboratory staff, caregivers, mental health workers, doctors, nurses, researchers, pharmacists, dentists, social workers, technicians, funeral directors and cemetery workers.
  • Law enforcement, public safety and first responders
    • Police officers, firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, 911 call center employees and those supervising emergency service operations.
  • Communications and Information Technology
    • Technicians, operators, call centers, wireline and wireless service providers, cable service providers, satellite operations, and communications equipment manufacturers and distributors. Workers who support radio, television and media services, including journalists, meteorologists, studios and technicians for news gathering and reporting, data center operators, HVAC engineers and electricians , security personnel, IT managers, software and hardware engineers, and database administrators.
  • Chemical
    • Workers in manufacturing plants, workers in laboratories, workers in distribution facilities, workers who transport basic chemical raw materials to producers of industrial and consumer goods, including hand sanitizers, foods and food additives, pharmaceuticals, textiles and paper products.
  • Government facilities
    • Election staff, construction workers, security staff, sales agents, bespoke workers, educators
  • Critical Manufacturing
    • Workers who manufacture materials and products for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, dam operations, the water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, defense industrial base
  • Defense industrial base
    • Workers who support the US military, including aerospace; mechanical and software engineers, manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security personnel; security personnel; intelligence support, aircraft and weapon system mechanics and maintainers.
  • Energy
    • Utilities and telecommunications personnel, natural gas/propane workers, electrical industry, engineers, cybersecurity/risk management and environmental remediation personnel.
  • Financial
    • Bank employees, employees of other financial/lending institutions
  • Food and agriculture
    • Grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, some restaurant workers, including delivery drivers, company cafeterias, workers in animal agriculture and food and beverage industries, farmers, laborers food processors, warehouse workers and food truck delivery drivers.
  • Nuclear reactors, materials and waste
  • Transport systems
    • Transit workers, auto repair and maintenance workers, garbage collectors, postal and shipping workers, air traffic controllers, airline workers, dispatchers, service and repair technicians, warehouse workers, workers truck stops and rest areas, and workers who maintain and inspect infrastructure .
  • Public works
    • Workers who inspect and maintain dams, locks, levees, bridges, sewer line breaks, traffic lights and buried/underground utilities.
  • The water
    • Employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure.

Some stay-at-home orders will have more exceptions, depending on the state. It is unclear at this time whether other businesses would be considered essential to Florida’s economy.

In Florida, restaurants, bars, taverns, pubs, banquet halls, cocktail lounges, brasseries, cabarets, auditoriums, performance halls, bowling alleys, arcades, gymnasiums, fitness studios and beaches are considered non-essential.

As always, check with your employer before deciding to stay home.


Michelle J. Kelley