One thing that the current crisis has revealed is how much the United States relies on hard-working people to help keep people safe and alive. Grocery store workers who earn minimum wage are suddenly nearly as crucial as surgeons who spent years in medical school.
These workers were performing essential jobs all along. But we are now finally recognizing how much they matter. So we decided to look at the most essential jobs in the country right now. They are occupations that people will continue to depend on to save lives. Acknowledge these essential workers in the list below.
28. Bus Drivers
Transportation around the world is at a virtual standstill with children staying home from school. Many employees have to stay home from work. Those who can work from home are doing so, but there are plenty of essential workers who cannot. They have to get to work.
Who is getting them to their jobs? In large metropolitan areas that have well-developed transportation systems, bus drivers are still showing up for work. They’re shuttling healthcare workers, grocery store workers, and many others to their jobs. They’re heroes keeping the country functioning right now.
27. Sanitation Workers
When you were a kid, you may not have dreamed of one day becoming a sanitation worker. However, while you are staying at home producing more trash than might generally build up, you’re probably very grateful sanitation services are still operating.
Sanitation workers are still going on their routes every day, going through city streets and some rural areas to collect trash and dispose of it. Next time you see the garbage truck coming through, find a way to let the workers know how grateful you are.
When the outbreak first began and governments began issuing stay-at-home orders, people made runs on grocery stores. They bought out supplies of milk, meat, pasta, and frozen goods (not to mention toilet paper). They were afraid these precious resources would soon dry up.
Nevertheless, they won’t be drying up anytime soon. That is because the farmers who produce our country’s food are still reporting to work, plowing fields, harvesting crops, tending to livestock, and doing what they always do to provide food for the country.
25. Grocery Store Workers
Your local grocery store won’t be closing anytime soon unless it needs to be deep-cleaned by government order. Furthermore, if one closes, others will remain open. Grocery store workers are still reporting to work to keep the shelves stocked with food and to check customers out.
Next time you are at the grocery store, take a moment to thank the workers you come into contact with. They are at a high risk of exposure. And in addition to their regular duties, they’re continually sanitizing surfaces to help keep you safe.
24. Amazon Workers
If the current crisis has benefited any one company, in particular, that company is Amazon. With people having to stay home and businesses across the country shuttered, people are turning to the online retailer to buy everything from books and movies to clothing and food.
People who work in Amazon factories are concerned about exposure and getting sick. But they have to continue reporting for work because they are deemed essential. With so many orders coming in, Amazon is hiring thousands of new workers across the country to try to keep up with demand. If your orders are slow in arriving, the reason is that workers are already at full capacity.
23. Postal Workers
How are your online orders getting to you? Many of them arrive through the same system that also delivers the $1200 emergency relief checks: the United States Postal Service. Some postal workers are operating the desk at the post office, while others are running routes to make sure you get your mail.
If you go to the post office, show these workers respect by wearing a mask. Be kind and thank the clerk who helps you. Furthermore, consider putting something on your mailbox to let your mail person know just how much you appreciate the work he or she is doing.
22. Hardware Store Workers
Many people who have been cooped up are finally getting to the home repair jobs they have put off for so long. And plenty of others, including contractors and construction crews, still need to get the building supplies they need.
Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s are still open to meet this need. Workers are still showing up to unload delivery trucks, stock shelves, direct customers to the items that they need, and check customers out. Without them, any emergency repair jobs you might need to do would have to wait.
21. Truck Drivers
Who is helping make sure that food from farms finds its way to grocery stores and that lumber and other goods get to hardware stores? Truck drivers. They work long days, driving thousands of miles of highway, and often sleep in their truck cabs. They work hard, and we are thankful they do.
Truck drivers are still working behind the scenes to make sure that you have what you need as you weather the current crisis. They help make sure grocery store shelves remain stocked, that mail travels long distances, and that the country continues running.
Schools may be closed, but teachers are as busy as ever trying to make sure their students continue to get a good education. Practically overnight, teachers all over the world had to learn how to use technology for distance learning so they can continue delivering lessons to students.
Some teachers are going above and beyond by making personal contact with students, especially those students who live in less-than-ideal homes. Some teachers have been driving by their students’ homes and holding conversations from a safe distance of six feet. Others have been sending kind, personalized notes to remind students they care.
19. Abuse Shelter Workers
One of the biggest concerns about stay-at-home orders is that people who live in abusive situations will be stuck at home with an abuser. Some abuse shelters have already seen upticks in people who need a place to stay while trying to find a new life away from their abusers.
Workers at these shelters still show up to provide a safe place for victims of domestic violence. They have to work extra hard to make sure clients in the shelters remain isolated to lower the risk of exposure and provide extra sanitation services.
18. Social Workers
The economy may be working at minimal capacity, but people still need access to necessary services. Social workers are notoriously overworked and underpaid and have high rates of burnout. But they are always finding ways to meet their clients’ needs as we all weather this problematic situation.
Social workers have been fielding calls regarding suspected cases of domestic abuse. They’re making sure people who are locked down with an abuser have a safe place to go. They’re also still getting abused children into licensed foster homes and battered women into shelters.
In terms of jobs you may have never wanted to have, janitor probably tops the list. Janitors work long hours, usually at night. They do the hard work of deep-cleaning and sanitizing spaces such as schools, offices, grocery stores, shopping malls, and hospitals.
Today, janitors are more critical than ever as they provide disinfectant services helping to keep people safe. And let’s not forget the all-important janitors who work in hospitals. They are at high risk of exposure because of their work environment and receive low pay that is often not a living wage. But nevertheless, they are making sure that hospitals continue running and providing care to patients.
16. Nurse Assistants
Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, are some of the most overworked and underpaid people in a hospital. They often work 12-hour shifts where they lift patients, bathe them, dress them, feed them, and even take them to the toilet.
CNAs are now on the front lines of the current crisis. Many CNAs provide care to sick patients, and they often lack the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to make sure they do not get sick. They are true warriors, risking their lives to protect against an invisible enemy.
It’s true nurses have one of the most essential jobs in the country right now. That’s because of the care that they provide to patients. They also provide care for people who are dealing with other illnesses and emergencies (such as heart attacks and strokes). Many are now working for days at a time without sleeping.
Nurses are also doing their job with or without the necessary PPE to keep them safe from infection. They may even be reusing the same masks for so long their skin is beginning to break down. Some are even being harassed by protestors insisting that the government repeal stay-at-home orders. But make no mistake, they are as essential now as a soldier is on the front lines of combat.
Emergency medical personnel are trained to deal with acute illness, often in response to a 911 call or when a patient has been brought into an emergency room. With hospitals flooded with patients, many who are sick are having to remain at home until their condition deteriorates to the point it is life-threatening.
Paramedics are the workers who respond to calls saying that a patient has stopped breathing or gone into cardiac arrest, and they attempt to resuscitate the person. These essential workers are now dealing with dramatically higher numbers of emergency calls than before. They have been watching patients die, sometimes dozens every day. Paramedics deserve our respect to the fullest in this trying time.
Right now, doctors are on the front lines of a war that is mostly being fought inside hospitals against an invisible enemy. It’s also an opponent people have been spreading without even knowing that they are infected. Like hospital janitors, CNAs, nurses, and paramedics, many are working without adequate levels of PPE and risk exposure.
Doctors and other healthcare workers are some of the most essential workers in this current crisis. They are working never-ending shifts. They cannot go home to their families because of the risk of exposing their loved ones. Furthermore, they are risking their lives to do so.
Zoos may be closed to the public nowadays. But there are still a few cars in the parking lots. Those cars belong to zookeepers, who must show up to tend to the animals in their care. They have to make sure animals continue getting fed and have a clean, safe environment.
If you plan on heading to your local zoo once it reopens, make sure you take a moment to thank the zookeepers who showed up and tended to the animals when everyone else was sheltering at home. While plenty of people were able to remain safe in their houses, zookeepers had a job to do.
11. Animal Shelter Workers
The current crisis does not mean that animals living in shelters no longer need someone to care for them. And it certainly doesn’t mean there are no abused or unwanted animals who do not need to be rescued, rehabilitated, and placed into a loving home.
Animal shelter workers are essential workers that continue going to their jobs every day to care for the animals that depend on them. With an uptick in people looking to adopt pets as they shelter at home, these workers are processing animal adoptions at higher-than-average rates.
10. Restaurant Workers
You may not be able to dine in at your favorite restaurant, but it is probably open for takeout or delivery. Restaurants, especially local ones that are independently owned and operated, are struggling not to close their doors permanently as they deal with the fallout of the current crisis.
Most dining rooms are closed. Yet restaurant workers still show up to run drive-thrus and provide orders for takeout and delivery. While you’re there, make sure to leave a tip. Many restaurants are providing free meals to hurting members of their communities and rely on private donations to continue doing so.
9. Instacart Shoppers
This is a grocery delivery service that allows customers to place orders and have their groceries delivered to them. Now that many people have to stay at home, Instacart is suddenly an essential service. Those in high-risk categories such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions cannot get their groceries in person.
Instacart shoppers, who pick up the food and deliver it, are more important than ever now. And they continue showing up for work. They don’t have to as they are independent contractors not bound by any employment contract. But they help make sure those in high-risk categories still get the food they need.
8. Food-Processing Factory Workers
If you’ve kept up with news about how the current crisis has been affecting essential workers, you probably heard about the Smithfield pork-processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. People who work in the food supply chain, which includes everyone from farmers to food processors to truck drivers to grocery store workers, still have to go to work.
These essential workers are at high risk of exposure. Many have become infected and even died. This was the case at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls. Many of these essential workers have raised alarm bells about not having proper PPE to prevent them from getting sick while continuing to do their jobs.
7. Public Health Experts
Public health workers are the people who deal with the underlying causes of outbreaks in localized areas. Instead of looking at individual cases of illness, they look upstream to try to find out why people are getting sick in the first place. In the current crisis, they are tracking down cases of the outbreak to try to find hotspots where it is spreading.
Public health experts are also working with government officials to guide how the epidemic is spreading within communities and what actions need to be taken to slow its spread. These essential workers are protecting entire communities through the jobs they perform.
Up until now, you may have taken for granted that when the doctor writes you a prescription, you can go to the closest pharmacy to have it filled. Pharmacists have long fulfilled a vital, essential role in healthcare. And now, their importance cannot be understated.
There may not be any medication that treats this outbreak, yet people are still getting sick from things like bronchitis. They still need regular medications for things like blood pressure. Pharmacists are essential workers who save lives by showing up to work and doing their regular jobs.
5. Medical Researchers
Two of the biggest questions right now are, where did the disease come from? And, when will a vaccine be available? Medical researchers are working day and night to answer those questions. Some are working on understanding the source of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China.
Others are working at pharmaceutical companies to try to develop a vaccine. Others are looking at medications already available on the market to try to see what effect they might have in treating people who have become sick.
4. Military Service Members
The military has been critical in responding to the current crisis by building field hospitals in areas that have seen intense outbreaks, setting up supply chains to deliver medical equipment to hospitals, and much more. People in the military have also been at high risk of exposure, especially those living in conditions such as the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Military service people may not be fighting battles in armed combat right now, but they are essential workers in the current war against the invisible enemy. They are saving lives and protecting our freedom, not on battlefields overseas, but in field hospitals in the US.
Members of Congress may not currently be meeting on the floor at Capitol Hill. And many Americans may not view them as having ever been essential. However, now they are working across the aisles to try to pass legislation to prop up the economy and provide relief to individuals and businesses hit by the current crisis.
Most members of congress are now working remotely, as traveling to Washington DC presents an unnecessary risk to their safety and the safety of others. Nevertheless, these essential workers are still doing their jobs as best they can, so take a moment to thank your representatives.
2. Fire Department Crews
With so many people staying home, there are plenty of accidents happening around the house. Fires are still breaking out, and fire departments have to send trucks and firemen and women to put them out. Without them, uncontrolled fires would spread and ignite swathes of land.
Fire departments respond to more than emergencies around fires and potential fires (such as gas leaks and faulty wiring). Firemen and women have always been silent heroes keeping communities safe, and just by showing up and doing their jobs amidst the current crisis, they continue to save lives.
1. Police Officers
People may be staying home, but crime is still happening. Police officers have been responding to shootings and breaking up large gatherings that violate stay-at-home orders. They are also responding to the uptick in calls regarding domestic abuse because of people having to shelter at home with an abuser.
Police officers are essential workers that are helping to keep communities safe and saving people’s lives. If you want to thank them for the work they do, do so by staying at home and avoiding large gatherings. They will be thankful that you are doing your job as they do theirs.
Essential Workers Are Not Eligible For Government Benefits
The government passed a massive stimulus bill to help struggling businesses and displaced workers who have become unemployed due to the current crisis. But essential workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits unless their company closes down or they become infected.
While displaced workers can collect unemployment benefits, essential workers must continue earning paychecks by showing up to work every day at severe personal risk. Many already earn low wages and cannot afford to miss a day of work, even in the current crisis.
So Thank Your Essential Workers
We are all in this together. In a crisis where we can all see the value of janitors and grocery store workers just as clearly as the value of doctors, this has never been more apparent. We will only survive the current crisis if we recognize the importance that everyone contributes.
Find a way to thank your essential workers, even if only with a simple “thank you” and smile when you pay for your groceries. And remember that the best way you can thank them is by staying home, where you limit the possibility of spreading illness.