What Is and Isn’t ‘Essential’ Business Under California’s ‘Stay at Home’ Order

grocery stores deemed essential
Grocery stores are listed as an essential service to remain open during the stay at home order.

On March 19, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 directing all residents to stay home, except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure. This state order came on the heels of a number of local “shelter in place” orders that were also implemented up and down the state. As Californians adapt to a “new normal,” these orders present a looming question: What is deemed “essential” and what is not? What businesses may continue operations and what employees are permitted to work without violating local — and now state — orders?

On the night of March 20, the California State Public Health Officer released a list of what it designated as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to help answer some of these questions. The list of essential services to remain open includes, but is not limited to, gas stations, pharmacies and grocery stores. The list of non-essential services that should be closed includes gyms and fitness clubs, hair and nail salons, and entertainment venues, to name a few. This website was updated on March 21 to include a list of FAQS.

In response, CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg noted his appreciation for the hard work and dedication of Governor Newsom and his staff for providing directives that will clarify and give certainty on essential business operations so employers and employees can continue to operate and be productive.

“We urge all local officials to follow the lead of the Newsom administration by conforming their directives to these guidelines, Zaremberg said. “A large number of California businesses operate in many different counties or span the entire state, so the need for consistency in supply chain operations is critical.”

Zaremberg also said the guidelines provided by the governor’s office are an important element of not only keeping our economy open for essential business during this crisis, but also for resolving the risk of inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement.

“I am encouraging all business in California to follow the public health directives laid out by the Governor.”

Erika Frank, Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, CalChamber

For more COVID-19-related federal, state and local resources, including CalChamber coverage, visit the CalChamber Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.

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