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Hairdressers, barbers seek answers on when, how to resume and groom

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island hairdressers and barbers are still waiting for guidance on how to safely reopen, and when that can be.

In a Facebook Town Hall hosted Monday by Rhode Island Commerce, state leaders heard from salon and barbershop employees in the state about their questions and concerns. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Facebook live video had over 21,000 comments and 4,000 comments, with hairdressers eager to know specifics.

Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor talked about how business operations might look. Like retail, hairdressing businesses will have to screen employees, customers, and visitors before they enter. Pryor says this could be done in a few ways, including posting clear signage for self-screening, verbally asking people about symptoms or even an app where you could answer questions digitally.

Pryor noted the hairdressing business is already well-attuned for safe hygiene practices and “in many ways, the best positioned to take on the high standard,” being asked of Rhode Island businesses reopening.

New protocols have not been laid out specifically, but those in the town hall discussed business would likely include sanitizing more thoroughly in between customers, and the potential to use disposable hair capes. Capes were of concern to some hairdressers watching the town hall, with some submitting comments they’ve tried to stock up, but are finding them to be on back order.

Salons and barbershops offer more than just haircuts.

Specific services salons and barbershops are willing to offer in the first phase of their reopening will likely not be everything they typically offer, including hair drying. Pryor says there’s some concern from health professionals about the blowing of air and moving around pathogens.

“There was discussion on whether to eliminate hair drying, or whether to look to that kind of work in a separate room, so at least it’s isolated,” Pryor said. “We took a lot of input on that question.”

In terms of a specific date to reopen, Pryor says he hopes to give hairdressers at least a week heads up, but that details will come when Phase 2 of reopening Rhode Island’s economy is also announced. Pryor also noted Rhode Island will be closely coordinating with neighboring state Connecticut.

“The next to implement major commercial openings is Connecticut. So not only is Connecticut our neighbor, but they are following closer behind than some of our other nearby neighbors,” Pryor said.

Commerce leaders are asking for continued feedback from hairdressers, and are hoping to host a similar town hall for nail salon technicians and makeup artists.

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