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Who Are Essential Workers in New York?

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, took the country by storm when it showed up in the United States earlier this year. Due being a major destination for business and tourism, New York immediately became a “hot spot” for the virus.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring the closure of many New York businesses in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. However, under the Governor’s order, not all businesses were required to close. Many businesses and other organizations were allowed to remain open. While the exact number of essential workers in New York is not known, it is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.

The following are specifically listed as “Essential Businesses” as of May 10, 2020:

Essential Health Care Operations:

  • Research and laboratory services
  • Hospitals
  • Walk-in-care health clinics and facilities
  • Emergency veterinary, livestock medical services
  • Senior/elder care
  • Medical wholesale and distribution
  • Home health care workers or aides for the elderly
  • Doctors and doctors’ offices
  • Emergency dental
  • Nursing homes, residential health care facilities, or congregate care facilities
  • Medical supplies and equipment manufacturers and providers
  • Licensed mental health providers
  • Licensed substance abuse treatment providers
  • Medical billing support personnel
  • Emergency chiropractic services
  • Physical therapy, prescribed by medical professional
  • Occupational therapy, prescribed by medical professional

Essential Infrastructure:

  • Public and private utilities including but not limited to power generation, fuel supply, and transmission
  • Public water and wastewater
  • Telecommunications and data centers
  • Airlines/airports
  • Commercial shipping vessels/ports and seaports
  • Transportation infrastructure such as bus, rail, for-hire vehicles, garages
  • Hotels, and other places of accommodation

Essential Manufacturing:

  • Food processing, manufacturing agents including all foods and beverages
  • Chemicals
  • Medical equipment/instruments
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Sanitary products including personal care products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Telecommunications
  • Microelectronics/semi-conductor
  • Food-producing agriculture/farms
  • Household paper products
  • Defense industry and the transportation infrastructure
  • Automobiles
  • Any parts or components necessary for essential products that are referenced within this guidance

Essential Retail:

  • Grocery stores including all food and beverage stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Convenience stores
  • Farmer’s markets
  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants/bars (but only for take-out/delivery)
  • Hardware, appliance, and building material stores
  • Pet food
  • Telecommunications to service existing customers and accounts
  • Delivery for orders placed remotely over the phone or online at non-essential retail establishments; provided that only one employee is physically present at the business location to fulfill orders

Essential Services:

  • Trash and recycling collection, processing, and disposal
  • Mail and shipping services
  • Laundromats and other clothing/fabric cleaning services
  • Building cleaning and maintenance
  • Childcare services
  • Bicycle repair
  • Auto repair
  • Automotive sales conducted remotely or electronically, with in-person vehicle showing, return, and delivery by appointment only
  • Warehouse/distribution and fulfillment
  • Funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries
  • Storage for essential businesses
  • Maintenance for the infrastructure of the facility or to maintain or safeguard materials or products therein
  • Animal shelters and animal care including dog walking, animal boarding
  • Landscaping, but only for maintenance or pest control and not cosmetic purposes
  • Designing, printing, publishing and signage companies to the extent that they support essential businesses or services
  • Remote instruction or streaming of classes from public or private schools or health/fitness centers; provided, however, that no in-person congregate classes are permitted

Financial Institutions:

  • Banks or lending institution
  • Insurance
  • Payroll
  • Accounting
  • Services related to financial markets, except debt collection

Providers of Basic Necessities to the Economically Disadvantaged:

  • Homeless shelters and congregate care facilities
  • Food banks
  • Human services providers whose function includes the direct care of patients in state-licensed or funded voluntary programs; the care, protection, custody and oversight of individuals both in the community and in state-licensed residential facilities; those operating community shelters and other critical human services agencies providing direct care or support

Essential Construction:

  • Construction for, or your business provides necessary support for construction projects involving, roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, or public or private schools;
  • Construction for affordable housing, as defined as construction work where either (i) a minimum of 20 percent of the residential units are or will be deemed affordable and are or will be subject to a regulatory agreement and/or a declaration from a local, state, or federal government agency or (ii) where the project is being undertaken by, or on behalf of, a public housing authority;
  • Construction necessary to protect the health and safety of occupants of a structure;
  • Construction necessary to continue a project if allowing the project to remain undone would be unsafe, provided that the construction must be shut down when it is safe to do so;
  • Construction for projects in the energy industry in accordance with Question No. 14 in the FAQ at: ESD_EssentialEmployerFAQ_033120.pdf
  • Construction for existing (i.e. currently underway) projects of an essential business; or
  • Construction work that is being completed by a single worker who is the sole employee/worker on the job site.

Defense and National Security Operations

Essential Services Necessary to Maintain the Health, Safety and Essential Operations of Residents and Businesses:

  • Law enforcement, including corrections and community supervision
  • Fire prevention and response
  • Building code enforcement
  • Security
  • Emergency management and response, EMS and 911 dispatch
  • Building cleaners or janitors
  • General maintenance whether employed by the entity directly or a vendor
  • Automotive repair
  • Disinfection
  • Residential moving services

Vendors Providing Essential Services:

  • Logistics
  • Technology support for online services
  • Childcare programs and services
  • Government owned or leased buildings
  • Essential government services
  • Any personnel necessary for online or distance learning or classes delivered via remote means


  • Parks and other open public spaces, except playgrounds and other areas of congregation where social distancing cannot be abided
  • Note that golf courses are not essential and cannot have employees working on-premise; notwithstanding this restriction, essential services, such as groundskeeping to avoid hazardous conditions and security, provided by employees, contractors, or vendors are permitted and private operators may permit individuals access to the property so long as there are no gatherings of any kind and appropriate social distancing of six feet between individuals is strictly abided
  • Marinas, boatyards, and recreational marine manufacturers, for ongoing marina operations and boat repair/maintenance, where such facilities adhere to strict social distancing and sanitization protocols. Use of such sites for the purposes of personal use or operation of boats or other watercraft is permissible, provided that no establishment offer chartered watercraft services or rentals. Restaurant activity at such sites are limited to take-out or delivery only.

Businesses that are not listed are typically considered to be non-essential. However, there is a process by which a business can apply for an essential-business designation. That said, the Governor’s executive order provides a list of businesses that cannot obtain such a designation. The following, under no circumstances, will be considered “essential”:

  • Any large gathering or event venues, including but not limited to establishments that host concerts, conferences, or other in-person performances or presentations in front of an in-person audience;
  • Any dine-in or on-premise restaurant or bar service, excluding take-out or delivery for off-premise consumption;
  • Any facility authorized to conduct video lottery gaming or casino gaming;
  • Any gym, fitness centers, or exercise classes, except the remote or streaming service noted above;
  • Any movie theater;
  • Any indoor common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease;
  • All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, arcades, fairs, children’s play centers, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, family and children’s attractions; and
  • Any barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing parlors and related personal care services, including nail technicians, cosmetologists and estheticians, and the provision of electrolysis, laser hair removal services.

Those businesses that are considered essential can remain open. However, according to the state’s official website, “Essential Businesses must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the Department of Health (DOH) and every business, even if essential, is strongly urged to maintain social distancing measures to the extent possible.”

Brill Legal Group Attorneys Are Here to Assist You in Any Way We Can

As a dedicated team of New York criminal defense attorneys, we understand that not everyone will need our services during the pandemic. However, for those who do, we are available. Whether you have loved ones who are still incarcerated or you have been arrested during the pandemic, we can help. From the moment you allow us to work on your case, we will zealously stand up for your rights at every stage of the process. We understand that having serious charges hang over your head makes it difficult to live your life as you normally would, especially given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We do everything we can to minimize the effects that a case has on your life, before, during, and after the trial. We offer free initial consultations to all prospective clients. To learn more about how we can help you defend your freedom against the allegations you are facing, call us today at 888-315-9841. We have offices conveniently located throughout the New York City area, including in Manhattan, Suffolk County and Nassau County.



Contact us today for a free consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. 888-315-9841