Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced counties that have attained a regional variance from the state will be allowed to reopen barbershops and hair salons.
Kern County, along with 46 others in California, have obtained variances, and can begin allowing barbershops and hair salons to start accepting customers for the first time in more than two months.
The announcement came shortly after Newsom said churches could begin holding services again, and he positioned the reopenings as signs that life is starting to return to normal.
“(This is) giving you a sense that we’re making progress, we’re moving forward. We’re not looking back, but we are walking into the unknown, the untested, literally and figuratively,” he said during a Tuesday news conference. “And we have to be guided by the data that brought us to this place in the first place. And that is guided by these principles of openness and transparency, principles where all of us are required to do a little bit more and a little bit better to make sure we’re protecting the spread of this virus, particularly, again, as we meaningfully reopen the economy in this state.”
Kern County qualified for a regional variance by meeting certain state benchmarks, like having stable hospitalization rates and recording less than 8 percent of tests as positive for the coronavirus. By meeting the criteria, Kern was able to advance through the second stage of the governor’s four-part reopening plan and allow many businesses to begin operations again.
Kern County public health spokeswoman Michelle Corson called the governor’s announcement very exciting, adding that barbershops and hair salons could open immediately as long as they follow state guidelines.
The guidelines require each hair-cutting business to develop a work-site plan detailing steps the business will take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Barbershops and hair salons will be required to check employees’ temperatures before each shift and screen customers when they arrive.
Face masks must be worn during a haircut, the state says in the guidelines. Facilities should provide customers with clean masks, according to the state.
In addition to face masks and temperature checks, businesses must follow a lengthy set of social distance and cleaning protocols. Appointments must be staggered to limit the number of people in a salon at any one time.
For Ramona Potts, owner of Atomic Kitten Salon, the announcement couldn't have come at a better time. She's been preparing for the eventual go-ahead to reopen, ordering masks and curtains to protect customers and employees, and even installing ultraviolet lights that will sterilize the store at night.
“We’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go,” she said, adding she would reopen Monday to ensure everything was in order by the time the salon began accepting customers. “I am really excited about it.”
She expects the salon to fill up daily for about a month, as customers who haven’t been able to get a haircut for two months all try to sign up for an appointment immediately. Since the forced closures, at least one customer has been calling every couple of days.
With the governor’s announcement Tuesday, calls have only increased.
“The phone has been ringing off the hook,” she said, adding that the salon would try to accommodate long-standing customers before signing up new clients for appointments.
Still, after a long period of no business, the uptick in customers is appreciated, and will allow more people to return to work after potentially months off.
“I have some part-time people that will probably be full time when this is all over with,” Potts added.