the essential question

These are the activities and industries considered essential in Houston

These activities and industries are considered essential in Houston

Memorial Park Master Plan Eastern Glades rendering
Outdoor activities are allowed, so long as social distancing is observed.  Rendering courtesy of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

When Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a stay-at-home directive for Houston and Harris County, adding that only "essential" industries would stay open and active, questions immediately arose as to what defined an essential activity and industry. 

Here is a list of essential activities, as well as which industries are considered essential: 

Essential activities

  • Tasks related to your health and safety or that of your family, such as filling prescriptions, visiting a health care professional or getting supplies in order to work from home
  • Getting necessary supplies or services for yourself or your family, such as buying groceries or pet food
  • Engaging in outdoor activities, like walking, running, biking, hiking or fishing

Essential government functions

  • All services provided by local governments and municipalities located in Harris County needed to ensure their continuing operation to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public, including law enforcement, jail operations, and other services.

Essential City of Houston government functions

  • All services provided by the City of Houston that the mayor of the City of Houston determines to be essential government functions.

Essential healthcare operations

  • Healthcare operations, including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, mental health providers, substance abuse service providers, blood banks, medical research, laboratory services, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services.
  • Home-based and residential-based care for seniors, adults, or children are also considered healthcare operations.
  • Healthcare operations also include veterinary care and all health and welfare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be viewed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare.

Essential retail

  • Food producers and service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, furniture suppliers, big box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers' markets that sell food products and household staples.
  • Food cultivation, including farming, ranching, fishing, and livestock.
  • Food production, including the production of canned goods, bottled beverages and other grocery items.
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences.
  • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery, drive-thru or carry-out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free services to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. The restriction of delivery or carry-out does not apply to cafes and restaurants located within hospital and medical facilities.
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers. Gas stations, auto supply, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores, and related facilities.
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home.

Grocery shopping
Grocery stores will remain open during the order. However, all grocers will be required to keep customers at least six feet apart to meet social distancing standards. Health officials don't recommend leaving the house unless it's an absolute necessity.

Churches/religious services
Harris County churches will be required to host religious services online only. There can be exceptions made for one-on-one meetings for spiritual and mental health, but individuals involved must maintain social distancing requirements.

Public parks
All public parks will remain open. However, visitors must stay six feet apart from one another. All public benches, exercise equipment, playgrounds and basketball courts will be closed to eliminate contact.

Caring for others/elderly relatives 
Citizens are allowed to leave their homes for emergency/essential care of family members, pets, and other loved ones.

Hidalgo says individuals who violate these restrictions could face a fine or up to 180 days in jail.

Going to work
Employees deemed essential include public health and safety, grocery store employees, health care providers, and more. Those whose jobs are deemed essential are expected to maintain social distancing standards in the workplace. (If you feel you are being forced to work for a non-essential job, the county said you can call 832-839-6941 to report it.)

According to the federal government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidelines, there are 16 sectors considered essential:

This includes media, as well as phone, internet, satellite, and wireless transmission providers.

This includes businesses involved in the manufacture, storage, uses, and transportation of chemicals.

Critical manufacturing
Among the businesses included in this sector are metals and machine manufacturing, as well as vehicles such as cars and airplanes.

Commercial facilities
Commercial facilities covers a range of sites such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

Businesses involving irrigation and flood control fall under this sector, along with drinking water supplies and hydro-power energy.

Defense industrial base
This sector includes the military as well as companies that provide resources to the Department of Defense.

Emergency services
Law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, and public works departments are included in this sector, along with private security organizations.

Industries that provide electricity to households and businesses, fuel to the transportation industry, and other sources of energy are covered under this sector. Utilities companies and gas stations would fall under this division.

Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, as well as investment companies, are covered under the financial sector.

Food and agriculture
Restaurants fall under the category of food and agriculture. Farms, food processing, and food storage facilities would also be included. Food pantries, including the Houston Food Bank, are among the businesses considered essential.

Government facilities
Government facilities include federal, state and local offices, including courthouses and systems involved with elections and voting.

Healthcare and public health
Doctors offices, dental offices, medical clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and COVID-19 testing sites are among the essential businesses in this sector.

Information technology
Internet providers are including in this essential sector.

Nuclear reactors, materials and waste
Power providers are under this sector, as well as some waste handling involving medical isotopes used to treat cancer patients.

Transportation systems
The transportation sector includes trucking and moving of necessary goods, as well as public transportation.

Water and wastewater treatment facilities are included in this essential sector.


This article appears on CultureMap's content partner, ABC13.

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