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COLUMN: ‘Essential’ Is So Much More Than Front Line Workers

OPINION: Jessica Szilagyi says front line workers are imperative, but ‘essential’ workers go well beyond the generic term.
“If you’re constantly questioning ‘why’ someone is out or trying to limit who that may be, you have no idea what people around you are doing to make the world keep spinning.”

The following column is an opinion and reflects the views of only the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia.

You want your doctors, nurses, EMS, and law enforcement to be the only people ‘out,’ you want grocery, convenience, and hardware stores closed completely because ‘it’s the only way to keep people home,’ and you are best suited to define what ‘essential means.’

But did you think beyond your own emotional justification?

The ‘basics’ you’ve defined seem like enough until the HVAC system goes out in the hospital or the ambulance needs a new transmission. Suddenly, the small business owner who is willing to drive an hour to pick up the closest available parts to provide same-day service is a hero, too. His mechanics getting a head start on the work so they’re ready when he arrives back with the transmission didn’t make your list.

Someone you deemed ‘non-essential’ is processing all the insurance claims for the spike in sick people.

You want a clean hospital, but janitors, the women running laundry cycles for clean gowns and sheets around the clock, and the pest control man didn’t make the cut on your list.

Lots of law enforcement uniforms have to be dry cleaned and their vehicles need to be serviced, too. These people have to be compensated for their time, so a payroll clerk, a banker, and someone with the payroll company is making sure the money gets where it’s supposed to go.

IT people are working to make sure all of the virtual meetings you’re having are stabilized and secure.

The farmer making sure you don’t starve has equipment and tool needs and a distribution route at several points in the process.

Nearly everyone has purchased something online (be it Tylenol, toilet paper, or cookies) during all of this in an effort to avoid going out. The things you’ve had delivered were produced somewhere else by a factory worker who had to leave the house. That wouldn’t have been possible if someone else hadn’t cultivated and produced the materials necessary to make the product you desired or needed. Warehouse workers packaged the product, the pilots, air traffic control folks, and plane maintenance employees got that plane off the ground after a trucker delivered fuel. Another trucker helped get your items to USPS, UPS, and FedEx facilities where more workers also had to leave the house to load the trucks so the item could get to your door.

You expect timely updates on what’s going on while you’re locked at home, but the news doesn’t just appear in the inbox of the people around the country bringing you updates – virus or otherwise.

Storms wreaked havoc on our state last night, so power companies, cell tower reps, and internet providers are out restoring service today. Those who sustained damage are going to need contractors and perhaps temporary housing, courtesy of a hotel or a short-term rental through a landlord.

And all of these people in the professions mentioned above, if they have kids, they need childcare.

If you’re constantly questioning ‘why’ someone is out or trying to limit who that may be, you have no idea what people around you are doing to make the world keep spinning.

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for

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