Manitoba stylists, salons want clarity from province on whether to close during pandemic
Public health order has rules for restaurants, gyms and grocery stores, but not salons
Some Manitoba hair salon owners and stylists want an order from the province to close because some salons are staying open while others observe social-distancing protocols.
The province issued a public health order last week that requires retailers keep patrons one to two metres apart. Hair salons are not covered by the order.
Some fear their industry could serve as a vector for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and want all stylists to cease operating for now.
"Our kind of business is very personal, it's very close. We touch our clients, we breathe their air. It's really not appropriate for us to be that close to our clients at this time," said Buffie Cantafio, who owns Buffie & Co. Salon Spa in Winnipeg's Riverbend neighbourhood.
She closed her shop Saturday, but said other salons have remained open due to uncertainty about their financial future. She worries that's dangerous, as more provinces confirm community transmission of COVID-19.
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"We all have our bills to pay, we need to eat. But there are many people that are still staying open. Even thinking that it's OK, and it's really not. We all want to flatten the curve. We all want this to go away. And if people are still there, they're spreading it."
She said a mandatory closure order by the province would also help business owners and employees access federal funds.
"Everybody's very confused if they will be covered, if they are self-employed or own a business. It's very unclear," she said.
BC, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Nova Scotia have issued mandatory closure orders for salons, spas, tattoo parlours and massage clinics.
"In those provinces they have a significantly larger number of cases than we do in Manitoba," said Brian Pallister, when asked about the issue Tuesday.
"It's a balancing act...in terms of protecting public health. We haven't a single case in Manitoba at this point in time, and fingers crossed we won't have one, of a hairdresser causing anyone to get COVID-19," Pallister said.
"But we could put every hairdresser out of work today or tomorrow if you'd like. I'm suggesting that that is probably not necessary right now as we do not feel that the preventative measures that we've been pursuing are not working," he said.
Manitobans are making changes in their lives in line with public health orders and recommendations, the premier said.
"I don't think he quite gets it," countered Shael Lander, owner of West Kildonan's 360 Hair Studio, which closed on Saturday.
"We can't do that if we are allowed to remain open. We cannot social distance."
Manitoba's strategy at preventing the spread includes self isolation, testing, case isolation, contact investigation and social distancing, according to Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer.
The Manitoba Dental Association has strongly recommended its members withdraw non-emergency services. Some medical clinics have closed their doors.
Manitoba's public health order allows retailers such as grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other retailers to remain open provided their customers are kept one to two metres apart.
Gaming centres, bingos, fitness centres and gyms are not allowed to be open.
Restaurants, bars and live entertainment venues are allowed to remain open, provided they have fewer than 50 customers, or operate at half capacity — whichever is fewer.
The province expects voluntary compliance with the public health order. Individual violators face up to six months of jail time or fines of up to $50,000 — while corporations face fines of up to $500,000 per day.
Many restaurants in Manitoba have closed voluntarily. Hair salons face the same choice.
Clarification 'would just be nice to hear'
"Hairstylists rely on their tips as much as waitresses and waiters. It's affecting them just as much. Just some clarification from Brian Pallister or Brian Bowman about what to do in our industry ... It would just be nice to hear it now," said Lander.
David Driedger, the City of Winnipeg's communications manager, said the city is taking guidance from the province on this issue.
"We are seriously taking into account their instructions," Driedger said in a statement, adding the city hopes local businesses heed the advice of provincial health experts.
But the public health order doesn't mention those in the esthetics industry.
"As a stylist you're within inches of somebody's space. You're in that personal bubble of theirs. We virtually can't adhere to those state of emergency rules. So what we just want is something clear because we don't have any type of a union or any type of an association fighting for us,"said stylist Shian Bear, who rents a chair at Be You-nique Salon and Spa in St. Boniface, which voluntarily closed last Wednesday.
She said an order would make it a lot easier to tell clients it's what the government wants. As a self-employed person, she hasn't been technically laid off, and an order would make it easier to access federal funds too, she said.
"All we want is a clear answer."
Pallister said the government is not ready to make social and economic consequences worse for people by forcing them out of work.
"We're taking nothing off the table. I'm in regular contact with provincial leaders and the federal government. Our goal is to be ahead of the curve … and keep our numbers as low as we possibly can."
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With files from Bartley Kives