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Michigan salon and barbershop owners hope for guidelines on re-opening

hair salon
Guilherme Petri

Safe Salons for Michigan, a coalition of barbershop and salon owners and workers, is requesting that Governor Gretchen Whitmer allow them to reopen with “comprehensive health and safety measures” in place. Hair, nail, and tanning salons as well as barber shops were closed in late March in compliance with the governor’s executive order issued as a result of COVID-19.

In an email, the coalition lists eight steps to re-open, which it says are modeled after states with salons and barbershops that are already open.

They are as follows:

  • Administrative controls for workers, including daily screening for workers to ensure they’re healthy before starting each shift, requiring workers to stay home if sick, maintaining appointment and walk-in records including date and time of service, name and contact information to assist in contract tracing if needed, and more.
  • Access control for customers and guests, including staggered entry, prohibiting the return of products, accepting customers by appointment only where possible, asking clients to wait outside in their vehicle until their appointment time, and more
  • Social distancing on the job site for both workers and clients, installing barriers between employees where 6 feet of distance cannot be achieved and more.
  • “Next level” best practices to ensure healthy hygiene on site will include the laundering of work clothing daily, eye protection for workers, limiting the personal items clients can bring with them for their appointment and more
  • Sanitation requirements include the cleaning of merchandise before stocking, constant disinfection of work areas and instruments, disposal of single-use materials, and much more.
  • Personal protective equipment will be used by all workers, including masks. Clients will also be asked to wear masks, and face coverings will be provided upon entry to those without one.
  • Should a client later test positive for COVID-19, our facilities will work with local health departments to identify potentially infected or exposed individuals to help facilitate effective contact tracing.
  • Following facility closure each day, facilities will undergo deep cleaning with disinfectant cleaners approved by the EPA as effective against human coronavirus.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) facilitated a workgroup with salon and barbershop owners to develop requirements and recommendations for reopening. The coalition was formed after the workgroup concluded on May 19. According to a spokesperson for LARA, “Those requirements and recommendations are still working through the process for further consideration.”
The governor’s office confirmed it received the plans and said it will review them.

Many workers are unsure of what this re-opening will look like. Laura Rose is one of those stylists. She works at Salon Saloon in Traverse City. She saw her last client the first week of March.

“I’ve been thinking about, is this one on one job sustainable for going through what we’re going through?” she told Michigan Radio's Stateside.

Rose says she’s had respiratory issues before. Last summer, she had pneumonia, and she had a respiratory infection in February. She’s getting surgery in two weeks, and she’s worried her immune system will be further compromised after that.

“Do I want to go back after that? Oh, it’s totally uncertain! As much as we love what we do and for me, as much as I love what I do, and I love my clients, and it hurts to not do what I do for a living, I am definitely second guessing myself. Is this the place to be? Like, am I going to be able to do this for the rest of my life?” says Rose.

Rose says client experience has always been a huge priority in the industry, and she thinks it’s going to have to change a great deal.

“So that actual whole experience that you get, or the assistant that comes over and you know, gives you magazines, all of that is gone. So it’s just very cut and dry,” Rose says.

She says she’s scared this is going to affect the value customers have for their services.

“Are our clients going to expect price raising because of PPE and all the extra washing we’re going to need to do and the disposable items and the gloves, and maybe not come? Or are they going to say, you know, ‘you used to charge me $57 for a haircut but now you’re not even blow drying me because I can’t be in the salon that long, are you going to discount my price?’”

Since guidelines for re-opening have yet to be finalized by LARA or any other agency, many stylists are still in the dark on what the plans are. Rose says she and her co-workers don’t even know when Salon Saloon will be open.

“We don’t know when we’re going to open, that’s the hard thing. And we don’t even have a direct code of what we’re supposed to be doing or what we’re supposed to have in the salon. Nothing by LARA, nothing by OSHA, and nothing by the CDC,” she says.

To hear the full Stateside interview with Rose, listen to the audio file at the top of the page.

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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