At Long Island Hair Salon, Get Used To Masks, Gloves, Temperature Checks
Hair salons and barbershops are reopening Wednesday on Long Island. Here's how workers and clients plan to adjust to the new normal.
PORT WASHINGTON, NY — Typically, people in need of a haircut and coloring walk into their preferred salon, check in, sit down, grab a water or coffee, flip open a magazine, and wait for their appointment. But for the foreseeable future, those days are over.
That includes a Port Washington hair salon, where major changes are in store for staff — and customers — once it reopens Wednesday. In other words, get used to having your temperature checked at the door.
Barbershops and hair salons on Long Island will join several other industries in reopening for business this week, the first time they've been able to do so since mid-March, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered nonessential workers to stay home. The order was aimed at helping slow the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease and has infected at least 50,000 people in Nassau County. There have been 400 confirmed cases in the Port Washington area.
Under the second phase of Cuomo's New York Forward reopening plan, hair salons and barbershops will have to adjust to a new normal.
They cannot exceed half capacity and must ensure everyone remains 6 feet apart when possible. Waiting rooms must be closed and lines should be avoided. Walk-in clients who can't be served immediately should leave and return later. Product samples, water fountains and magazine areas should be closed. Customers and staff must cover their faces. Hair stylists will look more like they're in a science lab than a studio, as they'll have to wear either a face shield or safety goggles.
The strict regulations led about 3,700 people to sign a petition urging Cuomo to relax the guidelines, pointing out that other industries aren't subject to the same regulations.
"Salon staff will be required to wear [personal protective equipment] as well as maintaining proper social distancing from coworkers and clients they are not providing a service for," wrote petition creatoron the website. "As a mandatory guideline salon staff are also required to be tested for COVID-19 every 14 days. Doctors, grocery store employees, Uber drivers and those working in food service are not subject to the same testing. Why this industry?"
In Port Washington, Gina Askin, owner of Aria Hair Salon on Main Street, said she supports the restrictions.
Askin told Patch in a phone interview Tuesday business was good in winter, which is typically a slow time in the industry. When coronavirus hit, she closed the doors March 10, days before Cuomo's stay-home order took effect.
Since closing, the salon has received inquiries from customers seeking at-home appointments, but Askin refused, stressing she wanted to keep her staff safe. She and her husband, who is also a hair stylist, even refrained from cutting each other's hair in that time. To appease their clients, the salon offered curbside pickup for at-home hair coloring kits.
Askin was surprised to learn hair salons were included in the second phase of reopening.
"I assumed it was going to be in phase three, but they changed their minds and moved hair salons and barbershops to phase two," she said. "So I was very happy and excited that the COVID [shutdown] is over after a long time."
When Aria reopens, Askin expects her staff will have their hands full — the wait list for appointments has swelled to about 400 people.
The salon must stay at or below 50 percent capacity. In the beginning, Aria customers will be asked to wear masks, gloves and even gowns. They'll have their temperatures taken and staff will disinfect hair stations, stools after each client.
Staff are going to wear masks, gloves and face shields, and they'll have their temperatures taken every morning. Furthermore, Aria will take a COVID-19 test every two weeks.
Clients who are used to sipping on hot tea and cappuccinos while they wait will have to find another way to pass the time — no food or beverages will be offered for now, she said. Chit-chat will also be kept to a minimum.
"It's so new for us, we don't know exactly how it's going to be," Askin said.
She added: "It's going to be a lot of work for us."
Askin hopes hair salons will be able to return to normal operations soon, perhaps a month or even a couple weeks. She fears that once the initial rush to the salon ends people will be too fearful of contracting the disease to return anytime soon.
"Maybe people will be scared to go to the hair salon," she said.
While she was able to pay her bills during the three-month hiatus, the looming uncertainty took its toll on her mental health. She began feeling depressed after a couple months, worried that a prolonged shutdown could doom her business.
"If it continued a couple more months, maybe I'd need to close forever," she said. "It's not easy to say. You're not making money but you're spending. And you don't know how long it's going to take."
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