As state and local leaders continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an update to its Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers Guidance. Version 4.0, released today, provides guidance for jurisdictions and critical infrastructure owners to ensure that essential workers can work safely while supporting ongoing infrastructure operations across the nation.

“The updated guidance reflects the changing landscape of the nation’s COVID-19 response,” CISA said in a statement. The agency noted that earlier versions of guidance were intended to help identify essential work functions to allow them access to their workplaces amid stay at home orders across the country. The updated guidance further identifies essential workers that require “specialized risk management strategies” to ensure that they can work safely. Additionally, CISA said jurisdictions and critical infrastructure owners can use the guidance to best allocate scarce resources used to protect workers against COVID-19.

“As the nation continues to recover and reopen in a phased approach, we continue to rely on essential workers to keep our communities functioning, and we need to make their health and safety a top priority,” said CISA Director Chris Krebs. “This update is intended to help government officials and organizations make informed decisions regarding essential workers who may require special risk mitigation considerations in the workplace.”

In its guidance, CISA also identifies workers tasked with operations or services that are “typically essential to continued critical infrastructure viability,” which includes staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing operational functions. The updated list includes workers who support crucial supply chains and enable functions for critical infrastructure. Industries represented in the guidance include, but are not limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, IT systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.

Reflecting the start of the school year, the updated guidance now includes workers who teach and support children either in-person or through virtual learning. CISA does note that the guidance “does not make judgment on whether schools should re-open, as those decisions are in the purview of state and local officials.”

CISA also noted that its guidance is advisory in nature and is “not intended to be the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue to work safely during the COVID-19 response across all jurisdictions.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.