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‘Longhairs’ rejoice, barbershops, salons can reopen with social distancing

Rennan Pizarro, owner of Sovereign Barbershop on 30th Street in North Park, makes preparations to open his store as early as next week after the county gave the go-ahead for stores like his to begin reopening on May 26, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Ban on one-on-one sports instruction also lifted, but restrictions remain for manicures, pedicures and facials

Barbershops and salons, yes; nail salons, no.

That is how Gov. Gavin Newsom broke it down Tuesday, signaling that barbers and stylists can go back to work, starting Wednesday, provided they create and follow a reopening plan that meets a range of safety precautions from universal mask wearing to regular sanitation of surfaces.

For now, the state is allowing only those procedures that can performed while workers and clients alike wear facial coverings. That means that haircuts, weaves, extensions, braiding, maintenance of braided hair and wigs, hair-relaxing treatments and coloration are all allowed.

Procedures that require workers to touch a client’s face, such as eyelash services, eyebrow waxing, threading and facials, as well as shaving, remain prohibited. And forget about rushing in for a mani-pedi. Nail salons, county officials said Tuesday, are not yet allowed to reopen, though that service should be “coming soon.”

Noting that it is great news “for all of you longhairs,” county Supervisor Greg Cox got a chuckle from his colleagues Tuesday introducing colleague Nathan Fletcher who found himself trying, as he has done in recent weeks, to temper the enthusiasm that the return of haircuts is sure to engender. Fletcher noted that the county has made a pact with the state to reverse re-opening decisions if certain “trigger” trends, such as increasing COVID case rates or decreasing hospital capacity, reverse their current downward trajectories.

“It’s very important that, as a people, that we adhere to the things that mitigate the risk of spread,” Fletcher said.

That’s also the case, Cox added, for local churches, which are also now free to resume services as long as they are limited to 25 percent of total capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller. Singing, which has been known to spread novel coronavirus, is discouraged and should include social distancing and services that include sacred rituals such as communion should be limited, especially around sharing food and drink.

The county also updated its health order Tuesday to provide a new exemption for one-on-one sports instruction. There is no word yet on when youth sports leagues can resume. Plans are also in the works to open entertainment parks, which have now been added to the third phase of the governor’s tiered re-opening strategy.

Rennan Pizarro, owner of Sovereign Barbershop on 30th Street in North Park, makes preparations to open his store as early as next week after the county gave the go-ahead for stores like his to begin reopening on May 26, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Though haircuts and other personal grooming activities have already been allowed in several other states, the announcement came as a surprise to cosmetologists across the state who have been sidelined since the governor’s stay-at-home order shut down businesses not considered essential in mid-March. With the number of cases and deaths continuing to increase statewide — San Diego County health officials announced 85 additional positive cases but no new deaths Tuesday — many suspected that locks would continue to lengthen for some time to come.

The governor’s order sent hair care professionals across the region scrambling to secure the sanitation supplies needed to safely reopen. In addition to disposable gloves and the right kinds of disinfectant sprays, Megan Hefti, a stylist who rents a chair at Blank Slate Studio in Mission Hills, said some materials, such as disposable gloves and capes and Lysol disinfectant spray are just not immediately available, making it difficult to open up immediately.

“Basically, everything we would want to have to have a safe operation is back-ordered right now,” Hefti said.

Rennan Pizarro, owner of Sovereign Barbershop in North Park, said his phone began buzzing with text messages from clients the moment the governor’s announcement broke. He said the six-chair shop will take a little more time to polish its reopening plans, shooting for early next week to start filling chairs again.

Restrictions against trimming facial hair, he said, will definitely change the business, especially in a particularly youthful part of the city where tastes trend toward young men with big beards.

“I’d say it’s half of our business, probably more than that, men wanting a haircut with a beard or a mustache trim,” Pizarro said. “But we’ll adapt. This is definitely exciting news.”

Rennan Pizarro, owner of Sovereign Barbershop on 30th Street in North Park, makes preparations to open his store as early as next week after the county gave the go-ahead for stores like his to begin reopening on May 26, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Having watched their livelihoods suffer for so long, the sudden change Tuesday was emotional for many.

“I cried a little,” said Holly Dargavell, 31, a licensed cosmetologist and hairstylist at Salon Radiance 1 in La Mesa.

Dargavell said she’s made it through California’s stay-at-home orders with the state’s unemployment assistance, and because the owner of the salon where she works has “very graciously” not charged rent during the lockdown.

She said some of her clients have been too afraid to attempt to do their own hair while others have been messaging her frequently with updates on their home hair care misadventures.

“’I’ve screwed up my bangs, what do I do?’ they’ll write,” she said. “Others say they’re just too scared to touch their own hair.”

And this won’t just be a transition for the customers. After months at home social distancing, picking up those scissors again and getting close to people other than household members, is going to take some getting used to.

Clients, Dargavell said, should bring along a little patience for those first appointments which, due to state regulations, will generally happen after waiting in the car for a text message to come in and immediately sitting down in a chair, rather than hanging out in a waiting room.

“It’s going to be a learning curve for us, too,” she said.

Parks

San Diego County theme parks, including SeaWorld and Legoland, are taking steps to prepare for a Stage 3 reopening, with a hoped-for target date of July 1 for resuming operations.

The parks, along with the USS Midway Museum and Aquatica, will meet Wednesday with county health officials to get feedback on a long list of steps they intend to take before allowing visitors to return to their parks.

“The plan is based on guidance from the CDC and gives details on personal protective equipment, social distancing measures, cleaning and sanitation protocols, work and sick policies, employee screenings, COVID training and customer communication including signage and website messaging,” Legoland said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “The safety and health of our employees and guests is the top priority for all San Diego attractions and we can’t wait to be back open.”

The intent, Legoland said, is to reopen by July 1. Its sister park in Florida already has announced it will be opening June 1.

The county meeting comes amid word from Newsom’s office Tuesday that theme parks will be able to open back up at some point within Phase 3 of the state’s four-stage reopening plan.

All of the theme parks have been shut down since mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

State health officials, in an emailed statement to the Los Angeles Times, confirmed that theme parks are on tap to open later in Stage 3, but only if the infection and hospitalization rates remain stable.

Carlsbad beaches

Over the weekend, there was confusion at Carlsbad beaches.

Those run by the city allowed visitors to sit down and enjoy the sun while state-run beaches kept everyone moving as has been the practice for weeks now all along the San Diego County coastline. The reasoning behind prohibiting sitting was to keep groups from forming. The odds of COVID-19 transmission are higher when groups gather.

Carlsbad’s police department, like most in the region, has preferred education over citation for health order enforcement. But officers warned Tuesday of a “more stringent approach” that will enforce no-lounging directives.

By now, Carlsbad police said, the public has had time to adapt to the rules.

“We have officers on the beach, in full force, monitoring the situation and addressing noncompliance,” police spokeswoman Jodee Reyes said in an email.

Meanwhile, in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego, about 30 anti-eviction protestors gathered Tuesday evening near where San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore lives. With blue, pink, yellow and white chalk, they traced outlines of bodies on the road and sidewalk outside the sheriff’s residence.

“Evictions equal death,” they wrote in chalk and held up hand-painted signs.

On May 7, the Sheriff’s Department announced plans to resume roughly 160 evictions that were ordered before the pandemic. That same day, Department officials reversed the decision, saying those evictions would not go forward despite being “perfectly legal.”

Several elected leaders at the time “expressed concerns about the impact,” department officials said in a May 7 statement. “Accordingly, the Sheriff’s Department has decided to suspend eviction service pending further discussion.”

The state eviction moratorium enacted by Gov. Gavin Newsom expires Sunday. The San Diego City Council voted last week to extend the city’s eviction moratorium one more month, until June 30.

On Tuesday, ahead of the planned protest, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Ricardo Lopez said in a statement: “At this time there are no plans to resume evictions.”

Patricia Mendoza brought her two children to Tuesday evening’s protest outside the sheriff’s home. She is an Imperial Beach resident who said she worked as a non-emergency medical transport driver before the pandemic put her out of a job in late March.

“We’re fighting for what’s right,” Mendoza said. “I don’t want to fail as a mother and tell my kids we’re going to be homeless in three months.”

Mendoza is a member of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, one of the groups that organized Tuesday’s protest along with the San Diego Tenants Union, Democratic Socialists of America-San Diego, Socialist Alternative, Party for Socialism and Liberation and San Diego QTPOC Colectivo.

Wendy Fry, David Hernandez and Lori Weisberg contributed to this report.


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