HPS Coronavirus Update: State Guidance on “Essential Businesses”

March 21, 2020


HPS Valued Pharmacy Partners,

As new information about each state’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic unfolds, we wanted to open our lines of communication with you. In the recent days, several states have issued Stay at Home orders, requiring that all non-essential businesses close, except where work from home conditions are available. “Essential businesses” are exempted from the orders. Each state is issuing a list of what it considers “essential businesses,” and, as expected, pharmacies are among the list.

We have been monitoring state websites and have not yet seen a state that requires essential businesses designated on their list to register as essential, but as information changes frequently, it is not out of the realm of possibility that new guidance may be issued at a later date.

Based on our review, it also appears that transportation infrastructure, including those that move people or products, are included as essential businesses, making couriers delivering medications exempt as well. However, we have heard that some states and municipalities are asking that non-emergency personnel only travel during certain times of day and we have asked our own couriers to let us know if they are experiencing any delays in making deliveries based on travel restrictions. We have also asked them to let us know if they need any documentation to demonstrate the necessity of their travel.

In order to help monitor a very fluid situation, we’ve assembled a collection of helpful information, including links to every state and U.S. territory’s department of health web page that provides specific guidance on their jurisdiction’s coronavirus response that we hope you will find useful. You may download this quick reference guide by clicking on the link below.


In addition, below are highlights from recent states issuing Executive Orders, as it applies to pharmacies and transportation companies:


Gov. Newsom has issued Executive Order N-33-20 directing all residents immediately heed current State public health directives to stay home, except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and additional sectors as the State Public Health Officer may designate as critical to protect health and well-being of all Californians. The state has designated a list of “Essential Businesses” that are exempt from the Executive Order. Exempt businesses include: Pharmacies as well as taxis, transportation services including Transportation Network Companies, and delivery services.  According to the state’s website, exempt businesses do NOT need to get an official letter of authorization from the state to operate.


Gov. Ned Lamont has signed Executive Order No. 7H directing residents to “Stay Safe, Stay at Home.” The directive mandates that all non-essential businesses statewide should close. The state’s Department of Economic and Community Development will issue guidance about which businesses are essential by 8p.m. on March 22, 2020 but the businesses will include, and not be limited to, the 16 critical infrastructure sectors as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. This list includes pharmacies and “businesses that move people or goods.” The statewide closure of all non-essential businesses goes into effect on Monday, March 23.


Gov. John Carney has issued a Stay-at-Home order that goes into effect on Tuesday, March 24. The Order requires all non-essential businesses to close. Essential businesses include “Health Care and Social Assistance” as well as couriers and other transportation companies.


Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued a Stay at Home order. Essential businesses and operations listed on their website include pharmacies and businesses that provide “transportation, for purposes of Essential Travel.” Essential travel includes, “Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities or other vulnerable persons.”


Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered non-essential businesses to close beginning 8pm on March 23. Retail businesses that can remain open include “life-sustaining retail businesses,” such as pharmacies.


Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued a “stay at home” order that goes into effect at 5 p.m. on March 23. Like several other states, Louisiana is basing their definition of essential and non-essential businesses on parameters developed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Infrastructure guidelines. Examples of Essential Worker Functions include “Pharmacy employees” and “Transportation and Logistics Workers.”

New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order telling all residents to stay at home until further notice and closing nonessential retail businesses. Pharmacies are considered Essential Businesses as are “retail functions of mail and delivery stores.”

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order. It includes a new directive that non-essential businesses statewide must close in-office personnel functions effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22. Essential businesses and enterprises include pharmacies and “transportation infrastructure such as bus, rail, or for-hire vehicles, garages.” Requests for designation as an essential business is ONLY required if businesses are not already designated as an essential function.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Health has issued a stay-at-home order for all Ohioans. The state is leveraging the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Infrastructure guidelines, which include “Pharmacy Employees” and “Transportation and Logistics Workers” among the types of Essential Worker Functions that are permitted to continue.


Gov. Kate Brown is expected to issue a Stay at Home order on March 23.


Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all Pennsylvania businesses that aren’t ‘life-sustaining’ to close. Essential businesses include pharmacies, as well as couriers, local messengers and local delivery providers.

Note that the list of states and cities issuing Stay at Home orders continues to expand rapidly and it is expected that most, if not all, states will eventually issue Stay at Home or Shelter in Place orders.



len-schiavoneWe will continue to monitor state responses and will let you know if we learn of anything that could impact your operations. Likewise, we ask that you also keep us in the loop.

If your pharmacy’s operations are disrupted for any reason, please let us know so we can help you find alternatives for serving your patient population. We are all in this together, and in a spirit of cooperation, we will all be successful in getting through this health pandemic. Thank you for all that you are doing for our patients.



Len Schiavone

President, Hospice Pharmacy Solutions

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