With COVID-19 cases on the rise and hospital intensive care unit capacity dwindling, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued another stay-at-home order with new mandates, including a temporary shutdown of hair salons and barbershops in Southern California. These safety measures have many businesses questioning whether they will survive a third lockdown.
According to a recent report, the new rules took effect on Sunday, December 6, and will be in place for the next three weeks. To most accurately track the cases, the state is divided into five regions, and each region will be eligible to reopen on December 28, as long as its ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to 15 percent. Currently, they are hovering around 10 percent. Until then, business shutdowns and travel restrictions will remain in place.
"Current projections show that without additional intervention to slow the spread of COVID-19, the number of available adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in the State of California will be at capacity in mid-December," reads a statement released by the state's acting Public Health Officer, Erica Pan. "This is a sign that the rate of rise in cases, if it continues, is at risk of overwhelming the ability of California hospitals to deliver healthcare to its residents suffering from COVID-19 and from other illnesses requiring hospital care."
It's devastating news all around — including for businesses that have struggled to stay afloat over the last year. Since March, CA salons have had to shut down, reopen with complex safety precautions, shut down again, reopen, and now close down again. "I have no power to say anything... I don’t know what to say," Holly Lee, a co-owner of iNails and Spa just outside of Sacramento told the Sacramento Bee. "We have accepted it, that's the rule. But at the same time, I'm really, really worried. The business is going to die."
All across Los Angeles, salon owners have publicly announced shutdowns through the holidays, alerting their clients via social media. "As you may have heard, Governor Newsom has ordered that hair salons be closed for the next 3 weeks at a minimum to slow the spread of Coronavirus," writes Tracey Cunningham, founder of L.A's Méche Salon. "We will be complying with this order and shutting down effective immediately."
This is California's third shutdown since March. The first saw the shutdown of all non-essential businesses and restaurant dining. By late spring, many cities across the state were in various phases of Newsom's reopening plan. On May 26, that included hair salons and barber shops, the Associated Press reported. By late June, hospitalizations started to rise again, forcing an abrupt second shutdown of indoor services to curb a spike in infections. At the time, the state had reported 473,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases during the course of the pandemic. Now, facing a third shutdown, California has reached a total of 1.3 million, according to The New York Times.
As of the nature of getting a haircut involving working in close proximity with clients, hair salons and barbershops have been among the first asked to close and the last permitted to reopen with each lockdown. But many argue that the measures put in place don't consider the safety precautions salons are taking, and suggest that politicians are unfairly targeting them as "non-essential" because of the nature of their work.
It is truly a difficult situation that has no winners. It's a delicate balance between prioritizing health and safety, while also acknowledging the many businesses that are struggling to make ends meet, explains Nikki Lee, hairstylist and the co-owner of L.A.'s Nine Zero One Salon. "Honestly, we have no words...it's just devastating," Lee says on facing another closure heading into what once was a reliably-busy holiday season. "Our industry is really hurting right now."