California Salons Given Green Light to Cut Hair Outdoors

Robin Sotomayor, 5, wears a supergirl face mask as she gets her hair done by Haylee Cummins at Rockabetty’s Hair Parlor, in Yuba City, Calif., on May 4. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Though barbershops and salons have once again been ordered closed by Governor Gavin Newsom, Californians can still get their hair and nails done outside under guidance released Monday by state regulators.    

Under the new rules introduced by Newsom, salons and other businesses offering “personal care services” will be allowed to set up temporary tents and cater to customers under the warm California sun. 

The decision comes one week after Newsom “flipped the dimmer switch” and halted reopening efforts in counties experiencing a spike in Covid-19 infections. In more than 30 hard-hit counties, Newsom ordered bars, salons and churches to forgo indoor services just as they had begun figuring out how to reopen.

The move predictably drew criticism from the impacted industries, including struggling salon owners who argued they had been able to successfully reopen with new safety and cleaning guidelines. Barbers and hair stylists claimed they were singled out as other businesses like restaurants were being allowed to open outdoors.

During a pandemic briefing, Newsom acknowledged last week’s rules were unclear and said licensed establishments will be allowed to move services outdoors. He said regulators needed to figure out how to comply with existing rules regarding the use of chemicals and shampoos.

“It was more complicated than some had considered,” Newsom told reporters. “It was our intention to provide for barbershops and the likes to do their work outdoors.”

Before opening, businesses will need to craft workplace safety plans as well as implement heat illness prevention procedures for employees and customers. The rules, which prohibit outdoor tattoos and piercings, call for services to be conducted “under a tent, canopy, or other sun shelter as long as no more than one side is closed, allowing sufficient outdoor air movement.” 

In May, a group representing hair stylists sued Newsom and the state in federal court over the original ban on beauty services. 

Meanwhile the pandemic continues to test the resolve of California’s massive K-12 education network, which has been relegated to remote learning since March.

Last week Newsom announced campuses in counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list wouldn’t be allowed to physically reopen next month. While many of the state’s largest public school districts had previously decided to continue with online learning only, Newsom’s decision ensures a majority of California’s 6.1 million students will begin the new school year learning on laptops and tablets at home.

With the recent addition of San Francisco, 33 of California’s 58 counties are now on the watchlist. Counties have been placed based on data including the number of new infections per 100,000 residents, test positivity rate and the change in hospitalization rate, among others.

The state’s latest school guidelines don’t call for outdoor classes, but Newsom said he’s “open to argument” and “interested in evidence” on the issue. The Democratic governor repeated his mantra that the length of the school closures are dependent on the state’s 40 million residents wearing face masks and avoiding crowded spaces.

“We can shape this conversation, we can shape the future by our specific decisions,” said the father of four. “We can get our kids back to school.”

The educational fallout continued Monday, as California officials announced football stadiums will remain shuttered and basketball gyms quiet on high school campuses through the fall.

Under the decision made by the California Interscholastic Federation, the seasons for fall sports such as football and volleyball will be pushed back to January along with similar delays for winter and spring sports. The federation, which governs prep sports, said the decision was made in consultation with public health officials and school administrators.

Robert Fields, men’s varsity basketball coach at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, said the decision was expected but throws his team and others into a “holding pattern.” He added the announcement doesn’t guarantee athletes will return in 2021. 

“It’s great that we have a goal, but a lot has to change between now and January for me to get excited about possibilities of competing,” Fields said in an email.

Along with the budding coronavirus watch list, hospitalizations and infections continue to rise in the nation’s most populous state.

California has seen a 16% increase in hospitalizations over the last two weeks with a total of 6,921 patients, while the state’s 14-day average positivity rate — a key indicator of community spread — is at 7.4%. Newsom noted the increases in hospitalizations is trending downward, as last week the state reported a 28% spike but saw a 50% increase two weeks ago. Counties reported 99 total deaths over the weekend, including just nine on Sunday, bringing the statewide toll to 7,694.

The virus epicenter since the early days of the pandemic, Los Angeles County is seeing an uptick in Covid-19 cases stemming from gatherings that happened over the Fourth of July weekend. According to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, the county saw 3,160 new cases in the last 24 hours and nine new deaths.

LA County has seen over 159,000 total Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Over 2,200 Angelenos are currently hospitalized, 26% of which are in the ICU and 19% are on ventilators. The county’s death toll stands at 4,104, 92% of which also suffered from a pre-existing medical condition.

The county has administered 1.5 million total tests to date, averaging 20,000 tests per day, among which 10% have come back positive.

Many of LA County’s new cases are coming from institutional settings like skilled nursing and senior living centers. Out of 23,974 cases found to have originated in these settings, 13,610 cases were confirmed among residents and 10,610 among staff members, with 2,069 deaths. Nurses in these facilities have been among the hardest hit, accounting for 49% of total staff member deaths.

LA County jails have seen 3,317 cases and 1,763 inmates are currently quarantined.

Newsom concluded by reiterating that the state was still in the pandemic’s throes and urged residents to keep up with social distancing.

“We are seeing a reduction in the rate of growth, but a rate of growth nonetheless which only reinforces the seriousness of this moment and the importance of taking the personal responsibility we must practice,” said Newsom.

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