Deciphering ‘Essential’ During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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On Monday, March 16, Santa Cruz County in Northern California issued a shelter-in-place order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring residents to stay home and limiting full business operations to companies deemed “essential,” like medical facilities and trash collectors. Ibis Cycles, one of a number of mountain-bike brands in Santa Cruz, announced publicly that it was closing due to the order. When employees went home that night, it was unclear when they’d return.

The next day, Ibis’s executives read the order more closely, homing in on a provision that allowed non-essential businesses to maintain basic operations if they met certain conditions. Basically, as long as anyone who could work remotely did so and the rest of the staff maintained social-distancing guidelines and proper hygiene, the company could continue operating. So on Thursday,…

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