COVID 19 Update: Newsom allows barbershops and hair salons to reopen, no word on when it will happen here

Michelle Harris gives a client a haircut at Rockabetty’s Hair Parlor in Yuba City, one of the few places where barbershops are allowed to operate. AP photo.

Gov. Gavin Newsom today cleared barbershops and hair salons to reopen, though it’s unknown when officials in San Mateo or Santa Clara counties will allow those businesses to reopen locally.

Also today, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions until Aug. 31. The moratorium was going to end on Sunday.

As for barbershops and salons, the state issued voluminous guidelines for those businesses to follow. Among them: customers and workers must wear face coverings during hair-cutting and other close-contact services and customers should be screened and their appointments canceled if they show signs of illness.

The announcement came a day after Newsom’s administration released highly anticipated guidance for allowing church services to resume. Newsom relaxed the rules for churches after more than 1,000 pastors said they planned to defy his orders and hold church this coming Sunday. The governor has also been named in a number of lawsuits, saying his ban on church services violated the First Amendment.

Newsom instituted the stay-at-home order on March 19, shuttering hundreds of thousands of businesses and creating record unemployment.

The original goal of the shutdown was to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases, but after that goal was achieved, new goals were set including additional testing. The shutdown was supposed to last three weeks but now is in its 10th week.

Under increasing pressure to reopen the economy beyond so-called essential businesses, Newsom unveiled standards earlier this month that allowed counties to open more quickly if they met state requirements on testing and tracing, hospitalization rates and overall cases of the virus.

Those requirements were too strict for many counties, and last week Newsom relaxed them, paving the way for a flood of restaurant and retail reopenings. All together, 47 of California’s 58 counties received state approval to reopen more broadly. Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have not said when they would allow restaurants and retailers to reopen.

Now Newsom is pushing farther ahead, following a Memorial Day weekend in which more Californians were out and about, enjoying restaurant dining for the first time in months and greater access to beaches, parks and trails.

“We’re making progress, we’re moving forward, we’re not looking back — but we are walking into the unknown,” Newsom acknowledged during a news conference.

Newsom said he felt confident moving forward because the state now is testing 60,000 people a day, procured massive amounts of protective equipment for workers and plans to deploy 5% of the state’s workforce as contact tracers who can track the spread of the virus to head off outbreaks. He said the state anticipates an increase in the number of cases because of greater testing.

“That’s inevitable, but that’s not in and of itself an alarm bell,” he said. “We believe with the modifications that we have time to test the theory of our case and to make adjustments if indeed we need to dial it back.”

Across the state, hospitalizations for the virus were down nearly 7% over the past two weeks and the number of patients in intensive care was stable, Newsom said. About 100,000 have tested positive for the virus in California and more than 3,800 have died.

For weeks, hair salons pushed for Newsom to let them reopen and now that they can in the 47 counties approved by the state they will need to operate much differently.

Beyond masks, the state suggests workers use goggles or face shields. Stylists should serve only one customer at a time, and salons and barbershops must get rid of shared items like magazines and offerings such as water and coffee. Workstations and stools are to be disinfected between each customer.

Newsom talked about his own experience over the weekend, when his children — ages 6, 8 and 10 — turned into barbers to cut what his wife called a mullet. They were not practicing physical distancing, following sanitation requirements or wearing face coverings.

“Our family will have to read these guidelines as well and make sure we modify our family behavior accordingly,” he deadpanned.

Scott Fontana, owner of Christophe Salon in Newport Beach, said he’s hoping to reopen Monday. He still needs train staff on the new protocols and reach out to clients to schedule them. He said he has a waiting list of about 250 people.

“As soon as Newsom made that announcement today, the phones have not stopped ringing,” he said.

Fontana said he’s slashed expenses but is still concerned about the budget. He said he’ll only be able to use every other chair and isn’t allowed to double-book appointments.

Nail salons still aren’t cleared to open, and hair salons shouldn’t perform services such as eyebrow waxing or facials that require a worker to touch a customers face.

Fred Jones, legal counsel for Professional Beauty Federation of California, said it made no sense to exclude nail salons. He said the state’s license for operating a hair, skin or nail salon establishment come in one package.

“There’s vagueness in the very act of saying hair salons and barbershops can reopen without also including skin and nail. So what happens if you own a shop that does all three areas?” Jones said. — From staff and wire reports