As the coronavirus spreads around the state, government officials have recommended all non-essential businesses close their doors until further notice. However, some people, like grocery clerks, healthcare professionals, utility workers and postal workers, are still showing up for work every day because their jobs are essential.
Among those considered essential service providers during the state mandated shutdown are law enforcement officers. Daviess County Sheriff Gary Allison says that group reaches also into deputies, jailers, dispatchers and administrators — in all 85 people who work at the Daviess County Security Center.
“All of my staff is considered essential,” said Allison. “Just as much as the medical people and the others on the governor’s list.”
For law enforcement, the idea of being essential is familiar. “This is one of those professions where we can’t operate from home,” said Allison. “We know we are not in that kind of work.”
Trying to limit some of the potential problems that might come with the pandemic, Allison says he has temporarily suspended some activities. Those include any visitation at the jail, title checks and the cancellation of the sheriff’s sale.
“By and large our job is generally to interact with the public,” he said. “We’re just trying to limit that as much as we can.”
The impact the coronavirus will have on the sheriff’s department isn’t known. It will depend on how many of the sheriff’s 85 essential staff members contract the disease and wind up under quarantine.
“This is what we accept on the day we put on the uniform,” said Allison. “No one expected a pandemic, but we are still expected to step up and that’s what we will do.”
While humans are the only species affected by the coronavirus, Washington's Cheyanne Stone, a veterinary technician at Comb's Veterinary Clinic in Bloomington, has also been deemed "essential personnel."
Since the concern of the outbreak started, Stone has been working her regular hours, just as hard as she always had. While those in the veterinary field cannot treat sick humans, Stone says that sick animals are still important to give proper care to.
"Human disease in no way stops animals from getting in fights, vomit, diarrhea or hit by cars," said Stone. "If we can't be there to fix them, then they just suffer and die at home or get more sick and/or people try to treat them themselves which can cause more problems."
While others who work 9 to 5 jobs can work remotely or take time off, Stone says she is thankful to still go to work every day and help animals in need.
"Personally, I don’t think I’d be able to sleep at night knowing that an animal is ill and suffering with nothing able to be done because there’s no vet clinic open," she said. "We have so many patients who rely on us to keep them alive — from cancer patients to diabetics to brand new puppies, they need us. If vet clinics weren’t open, it just would just be a disaster."
While Combc Veterinary Clinic is still open, they have restrictions in place to protect their employees and pet owners, including thorough sanitation and closing the lobby in favor of curb-side service.
"I’m so thankful we’re able to remain open where others aren’t as fortunate and aren’t working at all right now. I was confused and puzzled as to why it was even up in the air. This needs to be recognized across the board everywhere. Animals are our family too. Their lives are just as important as humans," Stone said.
Another company that has left its door open so that employees can fulfill their essential duties is Hoosier Energy, where Washington resident Laura Buchanan has worked as an auxiliary operator for 37 years.
The reason her job is essential, Buchanan said, is simple — we're all used to having electricity. "It's something you take for granted until your power goes out," she said. "I don't think this virus could shut down the power industry."
While higher-ups at the plant had initially considered asking some employees to quarantine at the plant for two weeks to keep up production, they went with a different plan instead.
"The office workers are working from home," Buchanan said. "I'm working two weeks of nights straight. If we are still in this situation in two weeks, the next group of workers will take over for two weeks."
Like all other businesses that are still open, Hoosier Energy has limited who is allowed to enter the plant and increased cleaning and sanitation.
"We tried to get all essential supplies delivered early, like fuel oil and ammonia," said Buchanan. "We're trying to do the space distancing."
Buchanan's family, husband Dave and son John, aren't "too affected," she said, by how much she's had to work despite warnings from Governor Eric Holcomb for residents to stay home.
"They are so used to having me work a lot of overtime and time away from them through the years," she said. "I tried to make sure everything is stocked up and laundry is done."