Due to the coronavirus outbreak, more than half of all Americans currently live in states or cities that have imposed a stay-at-home order: All ‘non-essential’ businesses ordered closed, and only ‘essential’ workers allowed on the job.
Who’s ‘essential?’ Doctors and nurses certainly are, and first responders, too. Grocery stores have to stay open and vital supplies must be trucked across America’s highways.
And then, of course, there are the florists.
When New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced his state was going on stay-at-home lockdown, he issued a list of ‘essential’ jobs and services exempted from the no-go order. Among them: “Workers supporting…florists, and farm stands.” Is a bouquet of roses and a loaf of farm-fresh bread an ‘essential’ service? It is in New Hampshire.
Not to mention a freshly dry-cleaned shirt.
It’s hardly a surprise the state exempts “Workers providing COVID-19 testing” and “Hospital and laboratory personnel.” After all, the point of the order is to fight a viral pandemic. But “Laundromats, dry cleaning, and laundry services?” Nobody has suggested America can “medium starch” its way out of this crisis. And whose laundry are they doing during a statewide shutdown, anyway?
Perhaps the many Granite State lawyers, accountants and banktellers, who are also considered too vital in the fight against coronavirus to leave at home. (When you’re fighting a virus, apparently it’s important to keep your receipts.)
Gov. Sununu has repeatedly pointed out his stay-at-home order isn’t literal. He’s explicitly urged Granite Staters to “exercise outdoors,” and he assures residents, “Of course, we will not prevent you from leaving your home to go on a walk.”
And with good reason: Virtually every outdoor occupation is exempt from his stay-at-home order.
Not just utility workers who keep the power on and the water pumping, or farmers who keep food on our tables. No, the list of essential outdoor work also exempts “Nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers,” as well as “landscaping services, including golf courses.”
Oh, and lumberjacks. “Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including timber” are on the list, too.
For weeks, New Hampshire’s small business owners quietly hoped Sununu wouldn’t take the drastic step of forcing them to close. They’ve seen what’s happening in the restaurant business where, despite all the “take-out service” cheerleading, many bar and diner owners are being driven out of business.
What do the restaurant workers and realtors and radio salespeople think as they see clerks serving customers at convenience stores, truck stops and hardware stores? Why are those workers more ‘essential’ than they are?
Under Sununu’s order, selling furniture is forbidden, but pushing home appliances is OK. Travel for pleasure is a problem, but if you do take a trip, it’s totally cool for a hotel worker to wait on you. Workers at places of worship are in a state of coronavirus grace, but not the people who show up to pray.
And at the state-run liquor stores, it’s always five o’clock somewhere.
Gov. Sununu long resisted issuing a stay-at-home order, arguing that so many Granite Staters were practicing responsible social distancing and so many businesses had chosen to shut down that a formal edict wasn’t necessary. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is small businesses who’ve been clinging to life while carefully serving their customers now no longer have that choice. This order will absolutely kill some Granite State businesses.
It’s enough to drive a law-abiding citizen to drink. And if you drink too much, don’t worry. New Hampshire’s got you covered.
“Workers in recovery centers and sober homes” are exempt, too.