With guide­lines, sa­lons should safely re­open

Orlando Sentinel - - Opinion -

With hair sa­lons and bar­ber­shops shut­tered for a month or more, we’re all look­ing a bit shaggy these days.

Untrimmed or dis­col­ored hair isn’t a good enough reason alone to re­open those busi­nesses.

But Or­ange County Mayor Jerry Dem­ings thinks they can re­open safely, putting some peo­ple back to work and help­ing with the slow re­turn to nor­mal. We think he’s cor­rect.

It can be done, and fairly soon, with the right guid­ance, reg­u­la­tions and en­force­ment.

In jus­ti­fy­ing last week’s de­ci­sion to let restau­rants and re­tail­ers re­open, Gov. Ron De­San­tis has made the point that busi­nesses like gro­cery and ware­house stores al­ready are jammed with peo­ple. Just try keep­ing your so­cial dis­tance at a busy Home De­pot on a week­end.

He’s not wrong. Even though hair and nail sa­lons are a more in­ti­mate busi­ness than hard­ware stores, they’re an eas­ier en­vi­ron­ment to man­age, not only for crowd con­trol but also for main­tain­ing clean­li­ness.

Sa­lon and bar­ber­shop own­ers made that point to De­San­tis last week­end dur­ing a mini-summit at a west Or­ange County sa­lon, not­ing that cos­me­tol­o­gists must get trained for clean­li­ness to get a li­cense.

They made the case that their busi­nesses, with the right pre­cau­tions, could re­open with a minimum of risk to customers.

The key is the pre­cau­tions.

De­spite all the de­ri­sion aimed at Ge­or­gia last month for so abruptly re­open­ing its econ­omy, the state drafted very de­tailed guide­lines for the cos­me­tol­ogy com­mu­nity.

The Ge­or­gia State Board of Cos­me­tol­ogy and Bar­bers made dozens of points, cov­er­ing per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment, work­place dis­in­fec­tion, so­cial dis­tanc­ing and man­ag­ing wait­ing ar­eas.

Many of those rec­om­men­da­tions were in­cor­po­rated into an April 23 ex­ec­u­tive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, which in­cluded 13 man­dates, such as pro­vid­ing ser­vices by ap­point­ment only, re­quir­ing customers to wash their hands when they en­ter the busi­ness and lim­it­ing the num­ber of em­ploy­ees to just 50% of the usual num­ber work­ing there.

Florida’s guid­ance for re­open­ing sa­lons needs to be just as rig­or­ous to min­i­mize the risk of more coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions and the chance of un­do­ing the progress that De­San­tis talks about at nearly ev­ery press brief­ing.

Equally im­por­tant is hav­ing an ef­fec­tive mech­a­nism to en­force those re­quire­ments. Guide­lines do no good with­out some means of en­forc­ing them and en­sur­ing the pub­lic has a way of re­port­ing vi­o­la­tions.

Mon­day’s limited re­open­ing of restau­rants was a re­minder of how hard it can be to break old habits. The Or­lando Sen­tinel’s front page Tues­day showed a Winter Park restau­rant owner, face mask tucked un­der his chin, hold­ing a close-quar­ters con­ver­sa­tion with a cus­tomer.

What the pub­lic doesn’t need are bar­bers and hair­dressers, work­ing in close prox­im­ity to our faces, de­cid­ing they don’t like wear­ing a mask.

Af­ter a rocky start, De­San­tis is be­ing very con­ser­va­tive in re­open­ing Florida’s econ­omy (by con­ser­va­tive we mean cau­tious). He’s tak­ing it slowly and, so far, care­fully.

That’s why the gover­nor made no prom­ises to the Or­ange County bar­ber­shop and sa­lon own­ers he met with on Satur­day. De­San­tis did say he wanted to find a way to say yes, but not just yet.

As De­San­tis pon­ders the re­quest, a task force as­sem­bled by Dem­ings is meet­ing to con­sider how to re­open a va­ri­ety of busi­nesses, in­clud­ing sa­lons and bar­ber­shops. On Tues­day, two sa­lon own­ers out­lined some of their ideas.

Re­open­ing an econ­omy is a tall order, harder even than shut­ting one down. Lo­cal and state lead­ers are, mostly, pro­ceed­ing as if they’re aware of the high price our state and com­mu­ni­ties might pay if they get it wrong.

Open­ing some busi­nesses — like theme parks — will be far more com­plex than others — like bar­ber­shops.

Bar­ber­shops and sa­lons may not have the lob­by­ing clout of pow­er­ful in­dus­tries, such as Florida restau­rants, but a hair stylist’s liveli­hood counts for just as much.

And their ser­vices are needed. Just ask the gover­nor, who pointed out that he, like a lot of us, could use a trim about now. De­velop some guide­lines, find a way to en­force them and let’s make an ap­point­ment.

JOHN RAOUX/AP

Gov. Ron De­San­tis, left, laughs dur­ing a dis­cus­sion with sa­lon own­ers in Or­ange County about open­ing busi­nesses such as bar­ber shops and nail and hair sa­lons.

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