Why some P.E.I. hairdressers say allowing them to return to work is the wrong call
'I still can't hug my family, but I can cut their hair'
Some Island barbers and hairdressers are pushing back against the province's plan to allow them to return to work later this month.
P.E.I's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced last week that hair salons and barber shops, will be allowed to resume operation May 22, as part of Phase 2 of the reopening plan.
"I had a lot of anxiety," said Rhonda Myers, owner of Ray's Place Barber on Kent in Charlottetown. "My first thought was, it's too soon."
Myers said with Morrison constantly stressing the importance of physical distancing, and with so many public health guidelines built around that, she can't understand why barbers and hairdressers would be among the first businesses allowed to reopen.
So much is still unknown and they are sending people with no choice to physical distance back in Phase 2.— Angela Rusk, co-owner of Lavish Hair and Beauty
"With us, [physical distancing] is completely impossible," said Myers.
"So you can come into my barber shop, sit in my chair, while I'm literally hovering on top of you. But then once we go out onto that same sidewalk, now all of a sudden we have to maintain six feet of distance.... I still can't hug my family, but I can cut their hair."
The province has written up protocols for barber shops and hair salons aimed at protecting staff and customers.
Among other things, all stylist and waiting room chairs will need to be kept two metres apart. Employees will have to wear non-medical masks and single-use gloves. All chairs and tools will have to be sanitized after each client and double booking won't be permitted to limit crowding.
On Monday, Morrison said the protocols are intended to limit the risk "where physical distancing may not be able to be maintained."
She added that "the phase [hairdressers and barbers] are included in is similar to some of the other provinces. So this is in keeping with that."
But Angela Rusk, a stylist and co-owner of Lavish Hair and Beauty in Charlottetown, said she's still worried.
"This virus has only been around for three to four months and so much is still unknown, and they are sending people with no choice to physical distance back in Phase 2," she said.
'Tough to see as many customers'
Rusk said following all the protocols will also make it tough to see as many clients, and to justify going back to work.
"We have to double book and work eight to 10 hour days to make it through each month," said Rusk.
I have to believe that if they're saying we can open then the risk is low.— Sean Aylward, P.E.I. Barbers Association
Sean Aylward, owner of The Humble Barber and head of the P.E.I. Barbers Association, said he understands the concerns of some of his colleagues, especially given that similar businesses such as tattoo parlours and estheticians cannot open until Phase 3 of the reopening plan, potentially set for June 12.
But Aylward said he's putting his trust in the government.
"I have to believe that if they're saying we can open then the risk is low."
He said cleanliness is a natural part of the industry, so the new safety measures won't be a big change.
"It is important that we start to get back to some resemblance of what life was. We can't be out of work forever," he said.
"There are going to be people who don't think it's safe. Ultimately, it's up to them. If the clients don't want to come in, then don't come in. That's totally fine. But there are others who are going to want to come in."
For Myers's part, she's confident she and her staff will be able to cut enough hair each day to justify opening.
Still, she's written to her MLA, asking that the province move barbers and hairdressers to Phase 3.
According to Myers, she "knows of about a dozen others" who have made the same request with their MLAs.
If the May 22 opening date remains, Myers said she will reluctantly start cutting hair again.
"If the shop down the street opens up, you have to be open," she said. "Regardless, the client is going to go … wherever he can find someone with a pair of scissors. And we have to be there and ready for them. I don't feel it's optional."
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
Practise physical distancing.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
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