May 2, 2020
by Jim Turner, NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE — Barber shops and hair salons are still on the sidelines as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening of select businesses during the coronavirus pandemic begins Monday.
DeSantis laid the foundation for the reopening of personal grooming businesses during a roundtable with barbers and hair stylists in Orlando on Saturday.
But the governor said more consideration of employee and customer safety is needed before he can give the go-ahead for salons and barber shops to turn on the lights again.
“Throughout this whole time, I’ve said I’d rather get it right than get it fast,” DeSantis, joined by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, told stylists, barbers and reporters at Ohsooojazzy Hair Salon in Orlando Saturday afternoon. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to sit on our hands. But we just want to be very thorough about how we’re doing it.”
The barbers and hair stylists assured the governor they are prepared to increase already stringent sanitation requirements.
“Our biggest thing is we don’t want to just keep ourselves safe,” Nadine Armstrong-Tarpley, an owner of Ohsooojazzy, told DeSantis. “We love our clients … so we want to keep them safe.”
DeSantis, who set up a task force to come with recommendations to reopen businesses, on Wednesday outlined what he called a step-by-step, three-phase plan that initially allows restaurants and select retailers outside of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to have outdoor seating and indoor occupancy limited to 25 percent capacity.
The first phase of the reopening also allows hospitals and other health-care providers to conduct elective medical procedures.
However, movie theaters will remain closed, as will bars, gyms and hair salons, and visitors will continue to be prevented from going to hospitals and nursing homes. And while DeSantis said the state won’t issue fines, gatherings of 10 or more people will continue to be prohibited.
Demings, who also established a reopening task force, on Friday urged DeSantis to include barber shops and hair salons in phase one.
“They are committed to ensuring that if they are allowed to reopen, consistent with the governor’s executive order, that they will do so in a safe manner,” Demings told the governor on Saturday. “For me, the guiding principle is to ensure safety first and the economic recovery next. And there is a happy balance between the two that we’re attempting to measure up to within this community.”
The group of barbers and stylists on Saturday gave DeSantis a variety of precautions they intend to employ to ensure workers and customers are protected from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The cosmetologists said they will limit the number of customers inside their shop and try to schedule exclusive times to see clients who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older adults and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. The shop owners said they’ve already removed items that can be touched, such as candy jars, will advise customers not to handle display products and will upgrade sanitation practices for tools and work stations.
“We have hand sanitizer by the dozens in here. We have a manufacturer here in Orlando that supplies it to us, so it’s always readily available,” Armstrong-Tarpley said. “We’ve even gone a step further to order disposable capes so it’s never touching again. We have masks in the front, just in case someone doesn’t bring one in. We’ve supplied masks to all of our stylists.”
DeSantis, who joked that he hasn’t had a haircut since February, said he will propose the safety measures to state cosmetology and barber licensing boards.
“If it vets and it’s safe, then I think we have a responsibility to get the ‘yes’ on this stuff,” the governor said.
George Ralls, Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center chief quality officer, said that, while barbers and stylists must wear masks and take additional precautions, customers must also be willing to abide by changes at the businesses.
“We should not come to a salon if we’re sick. If you’re asked to wash your hands, wash your hands. If you’re asked to wear a mask, understand why they’re doing that. They’re asking you to help protect them so that they can protect this economy and this community,” Ralls said.
Friday morning, DeSantis added state parks to the list of sites slated to reopen on Monday.
The state Department of Environmental Protection later noted that the parks would be opened in phases, with about 80 parks being available to the public on a limited basis on Monday.
The parks that open will operate from 8 a.m. to sunset. Beaches that are part of a state park will be available for people to walk, jog, swim and fish, but sunbathing, chairs, canopies or coolers are not allowed.
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears on Friday said his agency won’t count servers and other restaurant employees toward the 25-percent indoor occupancy limit. He also advised restaurant owners to use as much outdoor space as possible under federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention physical-distancing recommendations.
On Saturday, DeSantis reiterated that the state needs to proceed cautiously.
“I mean, our mantra is safe, smart, step-by-step. Be very methodical, data driven. But having healthy small businesses is important to be able to fight any health problems because, if the society is not functioning, our ability to deal with this is not going to be as strong,” he said.