Essential Means Different Things To Different People

Essential Means Different Things To Different People

Essential Means Different Things To Different People

There are few things in doubt right now. The economy is a wreck. People are beginning to chafe against “stay at home” directives that seem to have no end. And we all have different definitions on what is considered “essential.”

State governments are busy splitting hairs right now as to what is considered an “essential” business and what is not. Food is essential, but that has extended even to drive-thru coffee stands. Some big box stores, like Walmart and Target, are considered essential because they contain food and pharmacies, but as Nina covered earlier, Vermont is trying to limit what can be purchased at those stores.

And then there is Hobby Lobby. The arts and crafts chain, along with stores like Michaels and Joann Fabrics, have remained open due to their own interpretation of essential. While the CDC and other medical minds dither about whether face masks should be recommended to the general public, the American people have taken matters into their own hands. With a lot of free time on their hands, and a need for personal protective equipment when the supply of such is in high demand, those who can sew have cleaned out their local fabric and craft stores to make face masks.

Well, this has set off some local authorities, including one judge in Dallas, Texas, who decided to single out Hobby Lobby by name.

Asked on Thursday whether he plans to force Hobby Lobby to shut down, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, “We’re doing it. Yes, we are. Today. Tonight. As we speak.”

Jenkins said his staff communicates with public officials in other states and discovered that “this was a bigger problem than just Dallas.” Other officials shared the cease-and-desist orders they had issued to Hobby Lobby stores.”

“I just want to make it clear to Hobby Lobby and anybody who is foolish enough to follow in their footsteps, that in Dallas County, the government — and 99.9% of the business community — puts public health over profits,” he said.”

He advised anyone still working at Hobby Lobby to “go ahead and lock up and leave as soon as possible.”


The above tweet did not sit well with those who were responding to it on Twitter. However, the threat of legal action has caused Hobby Lobby to close its stores nationwide at the end of business today.

We know our customers relied on us to provide essential products, including materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, educational supplies for the countless parents who are now educating their children from home, and the thousands of small arts and crafts businesses who rely on us for supplies to make their products. Over the past several weeks, we implemented several best practices to provide a safer shopping environment, including the installation of physical barriers between customers and cashiers, enhanced cleaning, and the enforcement of social distancing measures. We are prepared to reopen our stores in a responsible way when the current situation improves, and look forward to welcoming our valued customers back to our stores. Until then, we pray for those affected by the virus, protection for the health care professionals caring for the sick, economic security for all impacted businesses and employees, and wisdom for our leaders.”

The problem is that the definition of “essential” is not standardized in the least, not across counties, states, or even nationwide. One judge in Texas decides that Hobby Lobby isn’t essential, and yet Americans are making their own face masks because they would rather have a little personal protection than none at all. Is this an essential item? Who gets to make that call?

And that’s not all that gets limited when arts and crafts stores are shut down. The reports are out that parents with kids, who are now not in school and cooped up at home, are buying toys – for both indoors and outdoors – and craft items like gangbusters.

“It’s crazy to say it, but we had our best first quarter ever this year,” said Basic Fun Chief Executive Jay Foreman. “Parents are loading up on building, craft and activity toys.”

Sales of Lite-Brite toys were up 800 percent on Amazon last week, Foreman said. He’s also seeing strong demand for building toys like Lincoln Logs and K’nex.”

Sales tracker NPD Group backs up the trend with a recent report showing that toy sales were up 26 percent for the week ending March 21. The toy categories with the biggest spikes were games and puzzles, up 228 percent, building sets, up 76 percent, arts and crafts, up 70 percent, and outdoor toys, up 20 percent, according to NPD’s report.”

“Parents are looking for things for kids to do in the house that are not screen related,” Jim Silver, president to toy review Web site TTPM told The Post.”

Count me among the parents who have done some toy buying in the last few weeks (and that doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that Easter is coming in just nine days, and the Easter Bunny may be wanting to put more than candy in baskets this year). But one of the greatest problems is that even the online giant Amazon has slowed down delivery in order to “prioritize” what they consider to be “essential.”

I’m sorry, I consider that LEGO set I just ordered to be essential to my sanity, thank you very much. If the authorities expect parents to keep their kids at home during a lockdown with no end in sight, then they damn well better consider the fact that the kids cannot just watch TV all day long. Maybe, just maybe, they need to think about what really is “essential” when it comes to staving off boredom and providing mental stimulation, for both adults and children. The lofty and elitist assumptions that an arts and crafts chain like Hobby Lobby can’t be considered “essential” in this moment really does speak volumes. I want to “flatten the curve,” but I’m sure as hell not up for the government telling me what is “essential” or not in a crisis, and neither should anyone else who values their civil liberties.

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Featured image via Pixabay, cropped, Pixabay license

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7 Comments
  • Walt says:

    Just saw a woman buy over $600 dollars worth of cigarettes, one brand. Store now ordered to close at the end of the day and stay closed until May. She disagrees that a tobacco store is nonessential but our government pinchfaces know better.

  • Jim says:

    Same issue here in Australia: for instance people living north of the Murray River in NSW – the border between New South Wales and Victoria is the river – may still go fishing in that river, but those living in Victoria [south of the river] may not go fishing in the river or anywhere else in the State.

  • Jmalouf says:

    The so-called “judge” in Dallas is an elected bureaucrat, not an actual judge. His position is more akin to a County manager.

  • Ann in L.A. says:

    Some people seem to be interpreting the need to stay home as the need to stop the economy cold. They say to stop ordering junk online; I say I’d like people to have jobs when this is over and want the economy to keep moving as much as possible.

  • steveH says:

    “…public health over profits…”

    Is it true that they sing this to the tune of the Internationale?

  • Dan says:

    It’s strange that you can buy most of the things the government is declaring “non-essential” on Amazon, yet you can’t buy them from a local business. I wonder how the stock portfolios of the elected officials look like? Any Amazon stock in there? Remember, we’re putting public safety ahead of profit.

  • Politically Ambidextrous says:

    Being in power means you get to make the rules (“everyone, stay home! for the greater good”)
    Having power means you get to grant the exceptions (“unless if you’re essential”).

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