On Friday, California entered Phase 2 of its planned 4 Phase reopening. Many non-essential stores were opened up to curbside purchase pickups, and a limited number of factories restarted production and storage. The second part of Phase 2 is expected to open up even more businesses in the next few weeks, including public safety capacity reduced dine-in restaurants and malls. However, one business sector was seemingly glossed over despite displaying no more risk than restaurants: barbershops and salons.
The delay on reopening barbershops and salons
The omission has confused many salon owners.
“We’re about to go under, and knowing it could be another month has all but killed the business,” Patricia Tran, a Los Angeles nail salon owner, told the Globe. “My mother first started this business when she escaped the [Vietnam] war, and it’s been our families livelihood.”
“Even before everything was shut down we practiced social distancing, and we even had rules in place for wearing masks inside and having everyone use hand sanitizer. But no. We can’t have that. We have no idea how much longer we can last.”
Barbershop workers are also perplexed.
“Why did they skip us,” questioned San Diego barber Jose Hernandez. “We’re careful. We’re around hair all day. We wash our hands a lot anyway. And if we reopened, we’d follow the rules. Masks and [things].”
“We’re the small businesses that they said they cared about. That we’re the backbone of the economy. Why are they keeping us closed if we’re not a health risk and if we’re losing money by staying closed?”
While it was vaguely noted by state officials that it was for “public health reasons,” Governor Newsom gave the largest hint last week when he announced that the first community transmission of coronavirus was spread by a nail salon.
“This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon,” Newsom said at a press conference on May 7th. “I just want to remind everybody of that and that I’m very worried about that. There are, and I know everybody watching understands this, health and personal privacy obligations that are bigger than any public statements that have to be abided by, legal parameters, as it relates to that first case.”
However, Newsom has not said where the salon is, or how he knows this.
Newsom’s decision leaves many businesses in jeopardy
Newsom and health officials, worried about other similar outbreaks, simply pushed back which phase salons and barbershops would be in due to the perceived risk.
“It was a ‘one bad apple ruins the bunch’ sort of thinking,” noted health safety adviser June Worrell, who has helped several businesses meet different county coronavirus safety standards in Southern California. “It should be moved up at the same time restaurants are. In fact, apply social distancing and safety measures, and barbershops and all types of salons are safer than restaurants. Far fewer people go inside.”
“Instead, because of one bad incident, they were pushed back. And thanks to this kind of thinking, barbers and salon workers have become some of the hardest hit small business jobs out there.”
For the last several weeks there has even been a small battle for salons and barbershops to reopen in the state. Salons in recently reopened Yuba County have started back up against Newsom’s orders, with some drawing so many customers that they were forced to become appointment-only. However, according to Governor Newsom during a speech on May 8th, the state shut down 33 salons that had illegally reopened.
It’s been so dire, and workers have been so affected by having a later start date, that the The Professional Beauty Federation of California (PBFC), which represents more than 500,000 industry employees throughout California, has joined up with the Center for American Liberty in suing the Governor.
However, the pleas and lawsuits have not been listened to, with the state insisting on public health above all else. While it will possibly help reduce further coronavirus spread, it may also leave hundreds, if not thousands, without a job or a business in the coming weeks.
“I understand it’s about stopping the virus,” stressed Tran. “But it will be killing a lot of us in a different way.”