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COVID Business Guide: What Businesses Are Essential in Every State

We’ve gathered the executive orders by state and put them into one convenient spot. This way, no matter where your business is located, you can easily find the specific orders the government has put in place and how it will impact your business.

Point of transparency before we get to it:

There’s a lot of content here and many terms & specific deals that vary by state which are updated frequently.

To avoid giving any misleading information, we’re going to link to the official orders for you to read the details and suggest you refer back to these links often in case anything changes.

We recommend contacting your local police department or elected representative if you’re still unclear if your business can operate or not after reading.

All links are labeled with the date the order was signed.

Please see here for more small business resources pertaining to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Governor’s office has been resistant to a “Shelter-in-place” order, closing a limited number of “non-essential” businesses in late March. Since that time the order has now been upgraded, following federal infrastructure guidelines. If you can safely operate your business, Alabama seemingly will let you. So this may be more personal than enforced restrictions.

Read it here: April 3rd

Specifically mentions critical home repairs as essential within the order. The rest of the businesses deemed essential follow those of federal guidelines.

Read it here: March 27th

Recently updated their restrictions to a stay-in-place order on March 30th. Businesses listed in the March 23rd executive order, which include an expansive classification of critical trades, remain within the same classifications.

The latest order now has a greater emphasis on social distancing guidelines and contactless business transactions.

Read it here: March 23, March 30

“The State Public Health Officer has designated the following list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to help state, local, tribal, and industry partners as they work to protect communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.”

California’s executive order primarily details healthcare/public health and other emergency services as essential, along with those in the food and agriculture, energy, water & wastewater, transportation, government operations, “critical” manufacturing, hazardous materials, chemicals and defence. Unsurprisingly, finance and communications/information technology (tech) were also listed. You can (probably) thank Silicon Valley for that one.

Not everything in each of these industries is “essential” however, so be sure to find your section and read through the industry segments in the bullets.

Read it here: March 22nd


Colorado has done a great job of including a breakdown of business sectors in their public health order. They also state that an amended order is not expected until April 11th and seem to be taking a short term approach to many of their measures.

Read it here: April 1st

As of this posting, Connecticut has not officially extended their “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order beyond the April 22nd date on first issue.
They are among several states simply using the same essentials list as recommended by Homeland Security.

Read it here: March 23rd

Delaware made a direct list with super specific breakdowns based on the NAIC industry classification system. Every industry is listed, and most are actually listed in the green, as in they’re eligible to remain open.

Some industries, like personal care services, “other personal services”, civic and social organizations, and others that involve getting very much up close and personal are understandably not allowed to remain open. This may change though from the time of this writing, so be sure to check back.

Read it here: March 23rd

District of Columbia
Under definition IV subsection J - Construction and skilled trades have been deemed essential as classified in Mayor’s order 2020-053.

Updated order, 2020-054 keeps those same classifications but includes increased penalties for violations.

Read it here: March 30


Florida was among the states to enact restrictions in the wake of the White House’s extension of social distancing guidelines. They are following the Department of Homeland Securities guidelines as listed on page 8 in their executive order below.

There is also an additional order from the Mayor of Miami-Dade that states,  “Contractors and other tradesmen, appliance repair personnel, exterminators, and

other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and other structures..” may remain in operation. 

Read it here: April 1st

Official order has not been signed, but a “Shelter-in-place” is scheduled to be enacted on April 3rd. Expectation is Georgia will also follow federal guidelines and recommendations from the Department of Health.

Read it here: April 3rd

Order includes restrictions and essential services as determined by federal guidelines “...service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the
safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, essential activities, and
essential businesses and operations.”

Read it here: March 23rd


Idaho adopted the guidance from Homeland Security, but also provides an outline on their website. Also included is a form Essential Business Designation.

Read it here: March 25th

You can tell this one was written by lawyers. It’s long, and very contract-esque. Save yourself some time and click Ctrl+F and search for your industry. You might have to try a few different search queries, but it should be there. They do, however, go into more detail than other states on what they call “Minimum Basic Operations”, which appears like they’re giving different levels of “open”, so even if you do have to shut down, it might not mean you have to completely halt business.

Read it here: March 20th

Skip to section 14 to get detail on what they define as “Essential Businesses and Operations” for the list of for-profit and nonprofit organizations covered in this order.

Read it here: March 23

The guidelines here are not very specific as they seem to use their own general classification for businesses. This could be a result of state wide general guidelines to be enforced more strictly at a local level. It might be within your best interest to reach out specifically to local officials.

Read it here: March 30th

This order is specific to which “life sustaining retail”, ie. companies who have a physical store, should be considered “life sustaining”. If your retail business is not considered “life sustaining” you’re unfortunately required to close. The list is quite small, so here’s the list of businesses that are NOT “life sustaining”.

  • Clothing stores
  • Florists
  • Office supplies
  • Used merchandise
  • “Miscellaneous” (you may want to look into what they mean by this if you think you might fall into this)
  • Sporting goods
  • Personal care services except for pharmacies and drug stores
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Auto dealers.

If you’re a mobile business, you’re probably good. Keep in mind that other states have issued orders relating to mobile businesses, so it could just be a matter of time before this happens in Kentucky as well. For this reason, it’s worth checking back to see if anything changes.

Read it here: March 22nd

This executive order covers “Essential Infrastructure”, charities and social services, “Hardware and supply stores”, “Critical” trades, suppliers for essential businesses, residential facilities and shelters, manufacturing for critical products and industries, and hotels/motels. If your business isn’t listed under one of those categories, you’re required to stay at home.

Read it here: March 22nd

The detail of the header on this executive order does not continue down through the document. However, the only restrictions seem to be placed on retail and brick and mortar locations. They do state that as much non-contact transactional business as possible is recommended and these features should be advertised broadly.

Read it here: March 31st

The first link is a non-exhaustive list of “Businesses, Organizations, and Facilities That May Remain Open.” The second link further expands this list. There’s lots of specific industries listed here, so we won’t try to list them all.

Of note is that door-to-door solicitation, even by businesses that are allowed to stay open, should be discontinued (though not outright banned it appears unless they break any social distancing laws, if applicable).

Read it here: March 23rd, March 23rd additional

Check the “Exhibit A” link below for the full list of businesses that are allowed to keep operating, and the order from March 24th for more of the particular terms to abide by.

Health services, Energy, Transportation, Public Works, Communications and Information Technology, Community and Government operations, Critical Manufacturing, Hazardous Materials, Financial Services, Chemicals, and Defence are the broad “essential” categories listed.

Read it here: March 23rd (Exhibit A) , March 24th

This order states the “temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life”. It primarily details government activities, as well as businesses and operations that employ critical infrastructure, but also offers details on what minimum basic operations are allowed by all businesses.

It’s fairly long, but using Ctrl+F to search for your business is the fastest way to see if you’re affected. Scroll down to section 8 for which sectors are considered critical infrastructure.

Read it here: March 23rd

Minnesota has created a comprehensive guide to all things related to their orders and restrictions. Sometimes the information is several clicks away, but it appears to all be available and clear. The executive order linked below confirms business can use the NAICS codes to determine their sector.

Read it here: March 26th

Adhering to the guidelines as directed by Homeland Security, with emphasis on social distancing policies.

Read it here: March 24th

Missouri is also following the guidelines set forth on the latest CISA document. Interesting to note, this executive order set a timeline for April 24th as the expiration of the order barring any extension. In addition, there is also a waiver exception process offered for those with brick and mortar locations.

Read it here: April 4th

A “stay-at-home” order not reaching the level of a “shelter-in-place” order. Generally, meaning they will be following federal guidelines to restrictions and regulations.

Read it here: March 26th

After declaring a “State of Emergency” officials maintained that those performing essential infrastructure operations or essentially licensed business can remain in business, but not further update in this latest order.

Read it here: March 31st

New Hampshire
An extensive list is provided but also includes the following note at it’s conclusion, “If the function of your business is not listed above, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an essential business.”

Read it here: March 27th

New Jersey
New Jersey regrettably has distilled critical information about your business through a 13 page document without clear headings. The nice thing about this though, unlike some other states, is that it’s text based, so you can use Ctrl+F to find details on your specific industry. If you run a brick and mortar business, go to page 6 and 7 to see if you’re required to close.

If you’re a mobile business, like a carpet cleaning company, it looks like you’re in the clear, but are advised to use caution.

There are some restrictions around social distancing and other things like requirements you impose on employees that you’ll want to read as well.

Editor’s Note: I have family located in New Jersey and would also caution that the Governor is enforcing regulations very strictly as the state has had a big increase in confirmed cases. If possible, avoiding things like multiple technicians traveling in one truck, not just for safety reasons, but to adhere to social distancing guidelines. - Shawn Hill, Community Marketing Manager

Read it here: March 21st

New Mexico
New Mexico doesn’t go into much detail on which businesses should be allowed to stay open or not, but if you scroll to page 3 you can read the 9 major “orders” in the document. They cover industries at a high level, so it appears to be a lot more discretionary than other states. You’re probably going to want to contact your local representative or police department if you’re unsure.

Read it here: March 19th

New York
New York has been hit exceptionally hard, so taking the extra step to produce an easily digestible list of essential businesses is appreciated. Not much explanation is needed, they do a nice job of making things easy to understand.

Read it here: March 22nd

North Carolina
Declared businesses essential in accordance with CISA identified sectors as well as those that can adhere to social distancing guidelines. Of note, is the designation that local governments can make their own restrictions based on impact within their area.

Read it here: March 27th

This order is that “All Persons Stay at Home Unless Engaged in Essential Work or
Activity”. They’re pretty explicit about that.

They do, however, allow minimum basic operations for businesses, detail prohibited activities, and list all essential industries in great detail. It’s a 23 page document, so we won’t try to summarize it all here since they go into a lot of detail.

Your best bet is to hit Ctrl+F on your keyboard to search for your industry, and read the general restriction on pages 1, 2, 8 and 9.

Read it here: March 23rd

Skip to page 4 for a list of businesses that need to close immediately, and the pages after that will list if your business is considered essential or not.

Read it here:  March 23rd

Pennsylvania has been one of the best at providing clear information at the State level. Some local county and city officials, however, have used their own interpretation of enforcement. This list has super specific breakdowns based on the NAIC industry classification system. Every industry is listed, and most are listed “in the green” as they’re eligible to remain open.

Read it here:  March 24

Rhode Island
No clear designation beyond retail businesses, so unsure of exact restrictions that may be in place. Concern seems to be on travel across state lines. Safe bet is probably to consult federal guidelines.

Read it here: March 28th

South Carolina
South Carolina saw some cities issue orders for “stay-at-home” and the state has since followed suit.  Per the order, “An individual or entity may submit requests for clarification or a determination regarding the applicability of this Order to a specific business, venue, facility, service, or activity to the Department using a form provided by the Department, which shall be available for public access and submission via the Department’s website, at

Read it here: March 31st

Following CISA sector guidelines the will restrict those as non-essential that do not match the federal standard. Furthermore, “....Essential Services are permitted under this Order, all persons are strongly encouraged to limit to the greatest extent possible the frequency of
engaging in Essential Activity or Essential Services.”

Read it here: March 30th

While the “State of Emergency” declaration puts an extreme emphasis on restricting activity when possible, businesses serving the function of, “.....building and property services for the safety, sanitation and operations of residences or other businesses..”seem to be deemed essential. However, there is not much more specific within the order. In these cases, most states have been following recommendation of Homeland Security.

Read it here: March 24th

Virginia has a surprisingly expansive list of retail businesses that may remain open, so this may come down to your personal determination. The focus seems to be on closing public gathering places, like those recreational and entertaining in nature. If you’re in home services or a mobile business, it doesn’t look like you’re affected, so can continue to operate normally. I suggest you follow the social distancing rules other states have set out to avoid any health concerns.

Read it here: March 23rd

Washington has provided a super detailed order and uses a small font with lots of text. Use Ctrl+F to find your business. HVAC is listed on page 11 under “Other Community-Based Government Operations and Essential Functions” so that may be a good place to start.

Read it here: March 23rd

West Virginia
The bulk of this 11 page document lists businesses that are allowed to continue operating, but they say on page 3 that only “essential businesses” can.
You’ll want to dig through the list and see if you’re allowed, but “Critical Trades” is probably a good one to look at on page 8. It includes things like painting, moving, HVAC, commercial cleaning, and a few others. If you’re focussed on residential cleaning right now, it might be time to pivot to commercial for a while.

Read it here: March 23rd

Directs residents to the CISA list in section 13 of the order. Additional designations are provided, but pertain mostly to retail operations.

Read it here: March 25th

Don’t see your state? We may have missed it. If they publish something similar, let us know at and we’ll add it so others can find it too!

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