Amid S. Carolina closure order, which local businesses are 'essential'?

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Essential or not? That is the question.

NORTH AUGUSTA, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- New executive orders have led to more businesses closing down on both sides of the river.

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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down, and Mayor Hardie Davis ordered the same for Augusta.

Salons, athletics, tattoo shops and entertainment venues are among the non-essential businesses that must close in South Carolina. This came less than a week after the federal government updated which businesses must stay open.

Trinkets, treasures and toilet paper T-shirts line the shelves at Communigraphics.

Have a lot of people asked the owner why the business is still open?

Yes, said owner Tracy Hooks.

“Like we are doing something wrong or evil,” Hooks said. “Most of those people don’t work in the workforce in our arena, so they don’t understand.”

Most customers do not come back.

“Tons of signage, vehicle wraps, big huge vinyl wraps. We have a screen-print department that prints any kind of T-shirt,” Hooks said.

Hooks began receiving letters from her customers in critical-infrastructure industries two weeks ago.

“We have multiple letters to us to operate: You are essential business. We are going to have needs, and we need to know if you can provide those needs,” Hooks said.

The federal government on Saturday updated its list of businesses that must stay open.

Sixteen industries must continue operations in order to protect public health and safety as well as economic and national security.

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The new guidelines identify specific workers in each industry, too. For example, in the chemical industry: workers supporting the production of protective cleaning and medical solutions and personal protective equipment.

In food and agriculture: workers in grocery stores and farmers.

In the energy industry: workers who restore electrical power.

The guidelines also include businesses like Communigraphics that supply to critical-infrastructure industries.

“We have had to do rush vehicles for police a lot of our first responders, directional signs for medical facilities,” Hooks said.

“We had a manufacturing plant that had to be open, so all their employees are wearing a shirt with a 6 on it to remind everybody to stay back because they are working.”

Her customers must stay back, too. Only two shoppers at a time are allowed in the gift shop.

“I think people have different needs with this crisis,” Hooks said. “They’re trying to solve problems they have never solved before.”

What isn’t essential for one person could be essential many others.

The South Carolina Department of Commerce created a new division this week to determine which businesses must stay open and which must close.

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