Printing deemed Essential in Pennsylvania

Written by Matt on Saturday 21st March 2020


On Friday March 20, 2020, PA Governor Tom Wolf updated the Industry Operation Guidance and "Printing & Related Support Activity" businesses can remain open.'s print operations are housed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our PDF printing service is operating with no negative impact to our prior service levels, and taking all appropriate precautions as recommended by the CDC. 

Measures to fight COVID-19 in PA 

On Monday, March 16th, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, came out with an order that all "non essential" businesses must close. Only a few business types were specifically detailed leaving those of us not listed with great uncertainty if we could remain open, or if we needed to close, or if we needed to modify operations to fit the guidelines. 

Our company's printing service had already started social distancing and increased normal disinfecting practices earlier in the week. Social distancing is not difficult because we are automated as much as possible, and typically have roughly only 1 person per 586 sqft at any time.  We saw that Monday's notice said retail must close, so the print shop closed its doors to the public, and continued with printMe1 and other new orders that were uploaded to our server for us to print and bind, then shipped out by USPS mail. 

Increasing need for Print on Demand Books

We started seeing more PDF's coming into the PDF Printing service a few days before that as people began working from home. So many people have had their daily lives disrupted and are asking "How do I print my pdf if I can't get to the office?" In some cases, there are users with high page count PDF's that are too big to print from a home printer, and no capabilities to bind such large documents from home to use them in a book format. 

But Thursday morning is when everyone here noticed something more serious. We looked at the overnight orders and saw there was a PDF of a ventilator manual that had come in to be shipped to NYC. Then CDC materials, and respiratory treatment guides in PDF form needed to be printed and bound.  

From then on, we were making sure anything medical was expedited & ready for the next USPS pickup.

Book Publishing is Essential

We weren't surprised when Governor Wolf came out with an update to the initial statement, but this was an executive order late Thursday.  The new order though was more direct and the instruction was changed to "non life sustaining businesses must close", and there was initially no list of which business types it applied to. 

A list of essential businesses was provided later, and we saw there was a green or red box beside each business type. We came to printing, saw the red box, and our faces went silent. 

But then a little later we looked again, and saw the list had a green box beside "Directory, Periodical, Newspaper, and Book Publishers", and so did "Electronic Shopping and Mail Order".  Of course books are essential, and the materials we were seeing were absolutely crucial to people involved on the front lines of this crisis, in addition to others still working from home and unable to access their office printers.

We thought back to the ventilator manual we had just sent out. We had also seen a surge in submissions for other medical device manuals, homeschooling materials, and OER PDF's. Book publishing is essential, but there was definitely confusion on how to interpret the list if printing is omitted. 

Printing is Essential 

Friday was a bit surreal. There was an email address provided to request a waiver and while we were considering the waiver, we rushed to get an extra run of all of the PDF's that came in on Friday printed and over to the USPS before they closed for the day, just in case we were not opening on Monday. 

We went round and round with our legal advisor about the circumstances. The thought process was to take all of our work related activities and break them down into specific operations.  The consensus was that printing books, periodicals, and using an electronic shopping method with mail order were each close enough to meet the requirement of essential businesses such as book publishing & mail order, even if printing was specifically omitted. 

Then Friday evening, we saw an article in Printing Impressions that said other printers within the Commonwealth had similar situations. In addition to the classification confusion we mentioned already, packaging, storage, and warehousing were essential, so what if you print the boxes? Print is used to transmit information on surfaces, containers, labels, and relied upon in places where there is no computer access.  Printing is part of the physical supply chain and the operation of facilities. As we wrote about before, print is preferred and necessary for comprehension. 

Just as we were about to submit a waiver, an email came through from the PA Chamber of Business that the list of essential businesses was updated. We clicked the link and scrolled to printing. Everything on the list of essential businesses related to print operations had gone green. Printing was changed to essential along with book publishing, electronic shopping & mail order.  

Conclusion operates in Pennsylvania and printing, book publishing, electronic shopping & mail order operations have all been deemed essential businesses in the Commonwealth, so we are able to continue operations. 

The events this week were a scramble for those businesses still operating and unnerving for those Pennsylvania businesses that are shut down here to stop the travel of the corona virus. 

Many of our users have gone through similar disruptions transitioning their work or classes to remote conferencing methods. More importantly other users are on the front lines in the medical industry have been impacted caring for those who have become ill, or involved in work that is helping the effort.  

Our hearts go out to anyone who has fallen ill from COVID-19, as well as any users suffering ecomomically from the shutdowns. We will do our best to provide anything PDF printing related to get through this without requiring users to leave their home or office.

We hope we can all get through this safely and get back to normal life quickly. We are proud to contribute in any way possible, including printing PDF's & shipping books now considered essential.

About is an on-demand printer & publisher of books that operates from Central Pennsylvania and supplies the United States with PDF's that are printed, bound and shipped. Our PDF Hosting feature is a publishing and distribution platform for OER in print. 


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