Who are essential workers? We hear about them every day, but many of us don’t understand the full scope of what defines an essential employee during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that frontline workers are vital, but beyond that, we may not consider the people working behind the scenes to ensure that we can get the things we need and to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
Without downplaying the importance of the people working on the frontlines, it’s crucial that we delve deeper to learn more about our essential employees. These are groups who will be first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure that they can continue helping their communities. That’s why it’s necessary to recognize who they are and why they’re so essential.
When most of us think about who essential workers are, we picture the frontline workers who have gotten out in front of the pandemic. Health care workers, including doctors, nurses, physician assistants, certified nursing assistants, and orderlies are among the most notable, while first responders, like EMTs, firefighters, and the police are considered essential, as well.
However, there are many other essential workers who are helping on the frontlines during the global pandemic. They have kept things running behind the scenes in ways that we may not imagine. When you ask who the essential workers are, it’s imperative to consider the following groups:
Pharmacists: Pharmacists do not have the opportunity to work from home due to their commitment to providing patients with the medications they need.
Educational employees: From teachers to daycare workers and the staff members who support them, educators have stepped up to be there for their students and their students’ parents, whether they are teaching children in person, setting up remote learning opportunities, or reopening daycare facilities.
Agriculture and food workers: Farmers, meatpackers, and people who work in food processing plants classify as essential workers, particularly because there were several outbreaks in food and agriculture facilities at the beginning of the pandemic.
USPS employees: The post office does not stop for anyone and the USPS employs nearly 500,000 people, all of whom have done their best to keep the mail running on time during the pandemic.
Grocery store workers: Grocery store employees are essential because they make it possible for people to purchase necessary items, ranging from food and beverages to toilet paper and other essentials.
Manufacturing employees: Producing goods is not a job that can be done remotely, requiring workers to come into work every day (and night).
Public transit employees: These employees have worked throughout the pandemic to ensure that other essential and frontline workers can get to work.
Corrections officers: Employees who work in prisons, juvenile detention centers, and other correctional facilities are considered essential for several reasons, including the fact that COVID-19 can quickly spread throughout these facilities.
Other Types of Essential Workers
While the employees mentioned above are easily identified as essential, understanding who essential workers are goes beyond that. When you stop and think about the pandemic and the lockdowns associated with it, go a step further to think about the workers who continued to make the world go ‘round.
Transportation workers and logistics employees have continued working to ensure that store shelves remain stocked with the food and other supplies people need.
In many areas, restaurants have stayed open for delivery and takeout, making food service employees essential, as well.
Because public safety projects and similar endeavors cannot pause in spite of the pandemic, engineers, waste management employees, and water management employees have kept working, too.
Employees in Entertainment and Media
Who are essential workers in the media? Although entertainment shows have gone on hiatus during the pandemic to preserve the health and safety of cast and crew members, certain aspects of the entertainment and media industries have remained open. Newscasters and journalists, for example, count as essential workers. Some of them can do their jobs remotely from home, but not all of them.
Professional athletes can technically be considered essential. Some leagues, such as the NBA and the NFL, have either continued to play or returned to a new version of normal despite the pandemic. This has opened up worry from fans and athletes themselves, especially since many athletes who have contracted COVID-19 proved to be asymptomatic. In some cases, that resulted in an infected player coming into contact with teammates, coaches, and even fans. Stringent testing has been helpful, and stadiums are doing their best to minimize exposure risk by limiting or not allowing fans in the seats.
The question of who essential workers are will certainly continue to come into play as states roll out their vaccination phases. Were you aware that all of these employees are considered essential?