Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday April 25, 2020

Georgia Hairdessers Weigh the Order to Reopen During a Pandemic

On Monday, within hours of Governor Brian Kemp’s announcement that many Georgia businesses could reopen on Friday, Maureen, a sixty-nine-year-old retired schoolteacher, texted her hairdresser, who owns a salon in Atlanta, about an hour from Maureen’s home, in Athens. “The Gov says you can open! 🙂 My appointment is on Friday of this week. What’s your plan?” Maureen, who voted for Kemp, made the appointment eight weeks earlier, before the coronavirus pandemichad shut down much of the country, and she was hoping to keep it. Her hairdresser, a man in his early sixties who asked that I not use his name, did not vote for Kemp. He told her that he would not be reopening until the following Monday—and only in a limited way. Maureen could try one of his other hairdressers, he said, but he wouldn’t be seeing clients himself until May 12th at the earliest. And, the hairdresser told me a few days later, if “Kemp’s science project goes as expected”—by which he meant badly—“then I have no idea when.”

Nearly a thousand people in Georgia have died, so far, of complications from the coronavirus, according to the numbers that have been reported. (The actual number may be higher.) Like the Central Georgia health board and many others in the state and around the country, the hairdresser did not think it was time to shift pandemic protocols in order to reopen businesses, even with precautions like masks, gloves, and disinfectant. “I thought it was the most asinine decision any governor could have ever made,” he said, “given the science we’re presented with, what Fauci and the other guys are saying.” The hairdresser checks the daily case counts regularly, he said. “Atlanta has been spiking up and down,” he noted. “I think yesterday we had maybe twelve hundred new cases. Today, maybe seven hundred or so—but it’s not midnight yet, I don’t know.” There are more than twenty thousand confirmed cases in the state. He went on, “It’s pretty damn silly, insisting on a haircut right now. But, you have to understand, my clientele is very privileged. To them, this is a very big sacrifice, to go without a haircut. I’ve had people offer me money to come to their houses—what’s the difference that’s gonna make? I don’t know. It’s a very entitled world.”

The hairdresser’s employees are contractors, who rent booths from him at the salon. Shortly after the announcement, he sent them the Georgia State Board of Cosmetologists and Barbers’ guidelines on reopening, which he called “the craziest thing—social distancing while giving a haircut is hard.” The board recommends that barbers wear a face shield and gloves, as a start. “You need to be in a smock, too,” the salon owner went on, “and change your smock after every haircut, into another clean, sanitized smock. The client is in sanitized cape and smock and neck wrap. Then you have to sanitize your whole station and chair.” Taking each client’s temperature and having them answer a health questionnaire is also recommended. “If I were getting paid the salary of a surgeon,” the hairdresser said, “it might be worth all the scrubbing.”

Some of the contractors are willing to take risks to pay their bills. “We could wait,” the owner said, referring to reopening. “But I feel like these hairdressers chomping at the bit—if they’re willing to do it and really take it seriously, and I’m there to monitor it—I can’t say no to them. But,” he added, “I’m kind of a wimp.”

One of these contractors, Brittany, who’s thirty-five, has been at the salon for four years. “If Home Depot can be open and people can shop because they’re bored and want to buy houseplants, and Target can be open for people to buy yoga pants,” she told me, “I don’t see the harm in me—carefully and safely—doing a client.” Brittany said that she is a Republican but did not vote for Kemp. She charges around two hundred dollars per session. “Twelve hundred doesn’t even pay half my booth rent,” she said, referring to the stimulus check she received from the federal government. (The salon owner did not charge booth rent while the store was closed.) “So you don’t want to be unsafe, but you also don’t want to lose clients or income. It’s a rock and a hard place, you know?” (The New Yorker) https://www.newyorker.com/news/us-journal/the-craziest-thing-georgia-hairdressers-weigh-the-order-to-reopen-during-a-pandemic

2020-14, barber, pandemic, Covid-19, virus, reopening, social-distancing, haircut, hair, business, Coronavirus