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What is Essential? Guidance for Owners and Independent Contractors

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman What is Essential? Guidance for Owners and Independent Contractors
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Keep up with regular news updates regarding Columbus and Ohio’s response to COVID-19 here.

If you went to work on Tuesday, March 24, the day after Ohio’s Stay at Home order went into effect, you have likely already been made well aware by your employer that your work is considered essential under the order. But for independent contractors and business owners, it is likely up to your own judgment as to whether you are able to continue working at this time.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the order affects all workers unless you work for an essential business, or are doing an “essential activity” including minimum basic operations — that is, “necessary activities to maintain the value of the business” and/or facilitating the ability for employees to work remotely.

On Monday, Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor John Husted clarified that if a business is categorized as essential or is the supplier of an essential business, that business must also be able to ensure workers are given access to hand sanitizer and are able to practice 6-feet social distancing or it should not remain open.

The order also allows for essential workers to work from home if possible, and state officials have said that doing so would be most preferable.

Essential Businesses and Industries

“Essential” includes many common-sense industries, such as grocery stores; gas stations; pharmacies; police stations; fire stations; hospitals, clinics and healthcare operations; garbage and sanitation; public transportation; and media, including newspapers, broadcast, radio and others.

Also included within essential industries are a few less-obvious businesses and services, as noted in the official order:

  • Accounting services
  • Auto supply and auto repair businesses
  • Bicycle shops
  • Carry-out and delivery service at restaurants
  • Credit unions and payday lenders
  • Critical trades, including:
    • Plumbers
    • Electricians
    • Exterminators
    • HVAC services
    • Moving services
  • Electronic stores
  • Firearm and ammunition suppliers
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Insurance companies
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Legal services
  • Medical marijuana dispensaries
  • Motels and hotels
  • Nannies and other home-based care providers
  • Pet stores
  • Real estate services
  • Shipping and delivery service providers
  • Stores that sell alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages
  • Title companies
  • Uber and Lyft drivers

State officials have advised business owners to be prepared for justification for why they are open if ever questioned. If in doubt, at the very least have a rationale prepared based on a specific exemption within the order or U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidance.


Columbus Underground, and likely every outlet reporting on the coronavirus, has received questions asking about the various circumstances of what can be considered “essential.” A few of the common questions:

Can I attend a wedding or funeral?

Yes. This is categorized under “to take care of others” within the order’s essential activities. However social distancing and other precautions have been advised, and there have reports that funeral homes are only allowing families to attend.

Will the Ohio National Guard be enforcing this order?

No. The order will be enforced by local governments, state and local law enforcement, and in some cases local health departments.

My employer has remained open even after the order has gone into effect/is not adhering to established health precautions. What should I do?

Governor DeWine has said that employees should contact their local health department over concerns about their employer’s behavior, though employees are encouraged to discuss with their employer directly before contacting their health departments. Residents of Columbus and Worthington should contact Columbus Public Health online or over the phone.

Find more frequently asked questions here.

For more information on COVID-19 in Ohio, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

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