As Yankton businesses consider reopening, some local hair and beauty salon owners say they are struggling with the lack of clear guidelines.
Last week, the Yankton City Commission voted 7-2 in favor of a resolution that would rescind last month’s ordinance that set restrictions on businesses and gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19. Businesses within the city limits are allowed to reopen with no restrictions or additional guidance in place.
For many years, hair and nail salons have had to perform specific sanitary procedures and pass inspections in order to be allowed to operate. Under normal circumstances, beauticians must deal with stemming the spread of lice and nail fungus, and must follow special procedures to deal with blood from a cut.
“You cannot legally do someone’s nails with a nail fungus or any other skin condition,” Dena Heeney, co-owner of Yankton’s Studio D salon told the Press & Dakotan. “But we’re going to be allowed to open up during the pandemic of COVID-19.”
This sudden change has created some confusion with the salon and hair styling businesses in town, said Studio D co-owner Dawn Kabella, Heeney’s sister.
“I have heard stylists that are not going to wear masks. I have heard stylists that don’t know if the client is supposed to wear the mask or the hair cutter is supposed to wear the mask,” Kabella said. “We wear people’s hair around on us on a daily basis. It’s in our dryers; it’s in our shirts; it’s everywhere.”
People infected with a virus, whether or not they show symptoms, are capable of transmitting it. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease is believed to transmit from contact with infected surfaces, but also between people closer than six feet apart. Social distancing policies try to keep people far enough apart that the virus cannot jump from one person to another.
Social distancing in the hair and nail industry is impossible, Kabella said.
“We’re getting right into someone’s personal space and with an airborne virus that hangs around,” Heeney said. “Who else in your life touches you (like your stylist)? I touch your shoulders, your ears, your eyebrows — everything, anything we do. Other than a nurse, who have you gotten that close to that works out in the community?”
With friends in every walk of life in the community, doing a beautician’s work without proper personal protective equipment (PPE) could put someone’s life at risk, the sisters said.
Also, due to the prolonged physical contact required to provide personal grooming services, PPE should be of medical quality, Kabella said, which could take such equipment away from the doctors and nurses who continue to fight this novel coronavirus in the nation’s hospitals.
“I pre-ordered 500 masks,” Heeney said. “And that’s going to be for myself and my clients. That would only be enough masks for me to get through three weeks of work.”
Cloth masks are an unknown and may or may not have been sanitized. Providing masks to clients creates a degree of certainty that there is some protection from an asymptomatic individual, Heeney said.
The cost of PPE can drive up the cost of safely reopening a salon in this pandemic.
“What do we do with our prices at that point?” Heeney said. “And, should we be taking 500 masks to do hair and nails away from the medical facilities?”
Since the arrival of the coronavirus, the medical community wears gloves, masks, face shields, head coverings and gowns to protect from COVID-19. Arguably, given the nature of their work, stylists should do the same, Heeney and Kabella said.
“That’s what Gov. Kristi Noem should say we should be wearing,” Kabella said.
The sisters — and beauticians around the country — have made a pact in solidarity with clients who cannot obtain beauty services, to leave their hair and nails undone until it is safe for themselves and their clients to go back to the salon.
Both Heeney and Kabella have underlying health conditions and are aware that COVID-19 could be more serious for them, as well as for some clients and employees, they said.
“There are coworkers of mine that have parents in the demographic (who could) die from this,” Kabella said. “I have a pregnant coworker.”
Kabella called state officials and was told that the salon industry would be “business as usual,” without any new sanitization practices, Heeney said.
“Right now, the medical professionals are telling us that’s not enough,” Kabella said. “So what is safe? What’s not safe? (Stylists) don’t know enough about this (disease) to let us just be in charge of it.”
Kabella believes that the bottom line when it comes to safety from COVID-19 and serving her clientele is education for clients and stylists alike.
“Please educate yourself, and if you see something that you don’t think is right, speak up,” she said. “If it’s between your hair and your life, choose life.
“Embrace that inner beauty and just stay home.”
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