California is taking the most significant step anywhere in the country to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering all California residents to stay at home or at their place of residence until further notice. Some businesses can stay open, and Californians can still leave to get things like food and health care.
For California businesses waking up to this today, what does their day look like? Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams has the latest. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with Marketplace’s David Brancaccio.
Kimberly Adams: Those that haven’t already shut down in-person operations are going to be scrambling to wind down. The San Francisco Bay Area already had similar measures in place, so there is some precedent for what this will look like. But now we are talking about the whole state, and whether a business keeps its doors open comes down to whether it’s considered “essential.”
David Brancaccio: So, what are “essential businesses”?
Adams: Obvious ones: grocery stores, banks, gas stations, pharmacies. There are federal government guidelines detailing 16 industries that may not jump to mind: the people who keep your water and electricity on, people who make sure your internet holds up, people who maintain nuclear reactors to make sure those are running OK.
Brancaccio: But “essential” also has some gray areas.
Adams: Absolutely. Some retail stores, for example, are covered if they provide “essential” goods. You might not think video games are essential, but retailer GameStop is claiming it should stay open because it also sells webcams and things people need for telework and remote learning.
Here’s what Jason Straczewski of the National Retail Federation had to say:
“It’s a very gray area at the moment. There’s a wide range of workers or areas of the workforce that the government deems as essential during this pandemic. However, governors are given leeway to make additions or subtractions based on what they’ve deemed necessary to their state’s economy.”
Technically, under these federal government guidelines, casinos and theme parks could be considered critical infrastructure. But it’s pretty obvious that’s not what California leadership is going for right now.