KENDALLVILLE — On the first day of Indiana’s hunker down order telling people to stay home, a lot of people spent the day... at work.

A lot of people are “essential,” it turns out.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, issued March 23 but not taking effect until March 25, extends until April 7. The order tells all Hoosiers to stay home unless they are making essential trips — for things like groceries, medicine or doctor appointments — or are conducting essential business.

While activities like emergency responders, health care workers, utility people to keep the water and sewage flowing, etc. might seem like obvious “essential” staff to keep on the job, the order actually includes numerous sections of jobs it deems essential.

“Essential businesses and operations” includes a lengthy list of exemptions, including: stores that sell groceries and medicine; food, beverage and agriculture; organizations that provide charitable and social services; religious entities; media, gas stations and businesses needed for transportation; financial and insurance institutions; hardware and supply stores; critical trades; mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services; educational institutions; laundry services; restaurants for consumption off-premises; supplies to work from home; supplies for essential businesses and operations; transportation; home-based care and services; residential facilities and shelters; professional services; manufacture, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries; critical labor union functions; hotels and motels; and funeral services.

When asked, many readers in northeast Indiana reported they, their spouses or family members that they were either in one of those groups or, at least, their companies believe they fall into one of those groups.

“C&A Tool is working. Everyone is here business as usual,” said Shauna Belhumeur. “We are a job shop who makes a variety of products aerospace, medical (implants, orthopedic) automotive and industrial. We don’t allow people to work from home but they have made a few exceptions.”

A lot of readers noted that regional manufacturers were still operating. Those mentioned by readers included Dexter Axle in Albion, Automotive Color and Supply in Kendallville, Parker Hannifin in Albion, Dana Inc. in Fort Wayne, Flint & Walling in Kendallville, Dependable Metal Treating in Kendallville and M&S Steel in Garrett.

A few posters also said the Walmart distribution center in Auburn is, of course, staying busy as grocery stores stay extremely busy with people stocking up on food and supplies while stuck at home.

Just because businesses are open and operating, though, doesn’t mean all employees are reporting in. For Becky Roller of Corunna, that meant different assignments for her and her husband, who both work for the same company.

“My husband and I both work for Fort Wayne Metals. I’m office staff so I’m working from home. He is maintenance and considered essential, so he’s at work,” she said.

Readers with office jobs — no multi-ton, multi-million-dollar equipment necessary — were reporting that their work has moved home temporarily.

Nikki Heffelfinger of the Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center located at Purdue Fort Wayne said she’s working from home, but staying busy helping small businesses affected by the virus restrictions.

“Currently working from home and assisting small businesses, especially those who need help getting through the SBA’s disaster relief application. We are a no-cost advising office funded by the SBA,” she said.

One segment that everyone seems to know is still open is restaurants, even if they’re restricted to carryout only.

Roger Urick, general manager at Richard’s Ranch House in Kendallville, said business is “not terrible” but still asked that residents support it so it survives the virus restrictions. Emily Bush-Pearson, who works payroll for Blue Gate in Shipshewana reminded people the restaurant is still open. Kendallville Burger King’s sign said “Keep calm and carry out,” reminding people the drive-thru was open — and busy around lunchtime on Whopper Wednesday — slinging meals.

Segments that have seemed to close down include retail and other person-to-person service industries such as hair and nail salons and spas, which didn’t include an exception.

Gordmans in Kendallville had a sign posted on its door that it will be closed until the COVID-19 order is lifted. But a few doors down in the strip mall, Rural King, which sells agriculture supplies and other types of hardware and goods remained open.

With the number of places remaining open, Erin Robinson Schoeff wondered how effective the stay at home order will be, since it seems like most places are still staying busy.

“Might be easier to see what companies think the aren’t essential!! Everyone one is finding a way to consider themselves ‘essential’ so nothing is gonna change,” she said.

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