On a regular day, for most people, cellphones remain a luxury. Sure, we use them to communicate and for a lot of other useful things, but we don't need them to interact with the outside world.

That's not the case currently, and it's why AT&T (T 1.88%) has decided to close on 40% of company-owned stores due to coronavirus. The company will also reduce hours at stores remaining open, close all locations on Sunday, and reduce hours at the operating stores.

A person holds a smartphone.

For some, a smartphone has become an essential lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic. Image source: Getty Images.

Why is AT&T staying open?

AT&T's move comes after T-Mobile(TMUS 0.57%) decided to close 80% of its company-owned stores but keep locations open to serve customers both gave similar reasons.

"Connectivity is always essential to our customers -- doctors and nurses, first responders, governments, banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, and others delivering vital services," AT&T posted on its website. "It's even more critical during a public health crisis that's challenging everyone. In fact, as a critical infrastructure provider, AT&T views it as our civic duty to step up and keep our customers and communities connected."

AT&T needs to do this

Much like T-Mobile AT&T has pledged to increase cleaning and sanitizing in its stores. It also plans to practice social distancing to minimize the risk of infection.

In these trying times, people need access to their phones. Many Americans lack landlines and without working mobile phone service they would be cut off. People should only visit an AT&T store if it's essential -- now is not the time for a voluntary upgrade -- but if you need a working phone, the company is staying open to meet your needs.