Reopen Mississippi Salons

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Dear Governor Reeves:

I am writing on behalf of Salon Owners/Stylists/Barbers across Mississippi.  On Friday, April 03, 2020, your office issued a “Shelter in Place” Order for our State in an attempt to combat and flatten the curve of Covid-19. As a result of that Order, of which the majority of Mississippians complied willingly and immediately, salons throughout the state have been closed.

Beginning that day, Mississippians’ lives came to a screeching halt, without warning, without preparation, we were “Ordered” to, basically, shutter our business.  However, prior to that date, many salon owners, in a benevolent effort to assist in the fight against Covid-19, voluntarily closed their businesses to the public.  I, personally, closed my salon on March 21, 2020.

Obviously, the “re-opening” of salon dates have been repeatedly extended.  As you stated, our State’s numbers have not reached the predictions.  In your own words, you assured Mississippians that our hospitals are in good shape as are the necessary medical devices, i.e., ventilators.   As you, cautiously and hesitantly, began re-opening the state, we the salon owners/stylists/barbers, continued to, patiently, await the time we could return to the work force and rebuild our crippled businesses.  For many, that remains to be seen if the rebuilding is even an option.  We were hopeful as our state slowly began re-opening.

Today, here we are again, salons and barbershops remain unable to re-open, unlike the vast majority of other businesses. Why?  Why are we being singled out? We have been given no concrete reason(s) as to why our businesses are being forced to remain shuttered.  While we more than understand we are a “personal service” industry, we are also well trained and educated as to hygiene, sanitation regulations, and our role in protecting public health.  We have not been given a factual basis of valid reasons as to why we are not allowed to open our doors and get back to work in a safe manner, when almost every other industry has their hands untied.   .


Salons/hairstylists are governed by State boards appointed by you, the Governor. They act on your behalf following the laws of this State. A board is in place to regulate the instruction and practice of Cosmetology by establishing rules and regulations relating to qualifications for licensure and to set forth sanitation requirements for the benefit of public health. They are in place to guide us, lead us, hold us accountable, and advocate for us. Yet, through this pandemic and mandated closure we have heard very little from our Board other than a recommendation to follow the CDC guidelines. Last week was the first formal communication from the Cosmetology Board.  Licensed cosmetologists were informed, via Facebook, of an addendum to our rules and regulations stating we would be fined up to $1000 if we chose to open salons against your orders.  Governor Reeves, that is not advocating nor representing us in our difficult positions imposed by the State.  There are thousands of hairstylists and barbers covering every corner of Mississippi. Our businesses are suffering and we are hurting, as individuals and collectively, as an industry. In many cases, we are the breadwinners and only source of income for our families.  Governor Reeves, please hear our voices. 

Per our state laws, every practitioner governed by the Mississippi State Board of Cosmetology has been amply trained in sanitation procedures and infectious disease prevention. A bulk of our certification hours and continuing education requirements are concentrated specifically to this area. Facilities operating under our Board are held accountable in following a multitude of sanitation rules and regulations, with periodic random inspections, and face sizable fines if all rules and regulations are not strictly followed. We are held, even further, accountable by being required to keep these rules and regulations posted and visible for all clients and public to see.

Everything in a salon is to be kept clean, labeled, and sanitized. Our disinfectants are required to be hospital grade and EPA registered. Can all businesses you have allowed to open say these things? Medical spas, clothing boutiques, dental offices, and now restaurants are required to be no safer than hair salons and other establishments governed by the State Board of Cosmetology.

As a matter of fact, restaurants are required to have one employee who is “Serve Safe Certified” (their sanitation certification) on staff during operational hours. In contrast, in a hair salon, every single practitioner is certified with a fifteen hundred (1500) hour license.  Based on that requirement, alone, a salon in the State of Mississippi, may very well be one of the cleanest, most adequately sanitized, and safest places for a citizen to receive a “personal service.”  We, as members of the industry, are proud the State of Mississippi requires such stringent measures.  When properly adhered to, it is inarguable those measures are in place to protect the public health.   

Governor Reeves, have you been into a Lowe’s, Walmart, Target, Academy Sports, Kroger, or any other big box retailer deemed “essential” during your “Shelter in Place” or “Safer at Home” Order(s)?  Surely, if you have, you understand the frustration of small business owners and other Mississippi residents, especially those who are highly trained to work in a salon and care for their clients, always regarding client safety, prior to a pandemic.  Safe, sanitary, and germ-free environments are not new to our industry. This State required those conditions long before Covid-19. 

Salons are at an almost total loss of revenue and stylists at a complete loss of income. Our ability to provide for ourselves and our families has been stripped from us. Governor, this is our livelihood.  It is more than “essential” to us and our families.  It is our lifeline and it has been severed. 

Most of us have not received unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, SBA or PPP loans.  Those of us who have received any of these, have found that assistance to be a fraction of our usual income, needless, to say nothing near what may be required to sustain our households.

The beauty industry, especially in the south, is predominantly female driven. 17% of our family households in Mississippi are mothers and their children with no second income producer in the home. This stand still is beyond debilitating. It is complete devastation for many.  Our bills are piling up, our pantries are running dry, and our hands are tied behind our backs, with no definite end in sight and no real help on the way. We cannot re-open our businesses, we cannot offer services in our homes, we cannot go into others’ homes, we cannot sell our services online.  The long-term ramifications are serious. If we become so desperate to feed our children, to pay our electricity, or obtain any other necessities, and we choose to go against your Orders, we risk not only being fined, but, could permanently lose our license(s).  No one wants that.  We just want the right to work, to pursue our livelihoods, to provide for ourselves. There is no logical reason, with proper measures taken, we should be denied that opportunity any longer.  We have not even had the chance to propose solutions.  Your Board of Cosmetology has not advocated for us.  They have only relayed how we will have our hands slapped or permanently tied if we do not comply.    

Governor, I implore you to reconsider your restrictions of salons and barbershops. We can only imagine the pressure you are under and the weight you carry in these times. You have faced many horrific tragedies and obstacles in your short 100 days in office. I’m sure the way you feel at night when you lay your head down is the exact way so many hairstylists and salon owners are feeling every single night in our own lives. People say this virus is an invisible enemy.  While the virus may be invisible, the effects are becoming increasingly, painfully, visible.  We are suffering. 

Governor Reeves, please do not act out of fear of a virus that while tragic, has affected such a small percentage of our population. Please do not let us become a pawn in a battle of politics. Please let us be the contributing citizens of our state that we typically are and give us back our freedoms to earn our incomes. Be the leader we elected you to be.  The one we know you to be.  A Governor of the people.  His people in this great State.  Mississippians are known to be hard workers, independent, and contributing members of society.  Trust us, Governor, trust us to represent that fifteen hundred (1500) hours of training. Trust us to implement additional safety measures and precautions to protect our clients.  We care about each one because they are “essential” to us.

Respectfully, I propose, in addition to all current rules and regulations mandated by the Board of Cosmetology, we take the following additional precautions, implementing not only the CDC guidelines, but adhering to these standards, as well.
 
•All employees will have their temperature taken before entering the salon at the beginning of each shift.
•No more than 10 people in the salon at one (1) time. There will be NO double booking.
•10-15 minutes between each client’s appointment time to allow stylists to adequately sanitize.
•We will be calling clients to confirm their appointments instead of sending text confirmations so that we can reiterate these procedures before their appointment and ask any last minute questions regarding their health, travel and possible exposure.
•Clients will be asked to text from their cars when they arrive and wait until we will text to let them know when to come in.
•“Entrance” doors will remain locked.
•Clients’ temperatures will be taken before entering the salon. (If a client refuses, services will not be performed).
•Clients will be asked to immediately wash their hands when entering.
•Clients will be asked to wear masks with small elastics behind their ears. If they do not have  
 one we will have them available to purchase in the salon (for the cost price, not for profit)
•All stylists will wear masks.
•We will not be “blow drying” clients. This is to shorten their time in the salon in an effort to reduce exposure and to prevent stirring around airborne germs in the salon.
•All employees in the salon will take an online sanitation course through the salon disinfectant brand Barbicide.
•Stylists will ensure their clients know that everything has been freshly sanitized and they have washed their hands before they allowed the client to come to their stations.
•Clients are not allowed to bring guests or children with them to their appointments.

Governor Reeves, these additional precautions, surely, are as safe if not safer than the suggested “wear a face covering” when you are out in public.  Clients who refuse to comply will not receive services.  We, more than anyone, want a safe environment.  If someone,   unknowingly, exposes us or we, unknowingly, expose them, then we suffer, yet again.

Statistically, the odds of being in a car crash are 1 out of 77.  The odds of dying in a car crash are 1 out of 103.  But, we don’t stop people from driving because of those odds.  We don’t shut down businesses so people won’t go places because we are “afraid” of what “could be.”  We live life, inherent with risks.  You said it yourself, Governor, “Sometimes the models are just different for different states.”

Follow your own thinking, make this “model” for re-opening salons an example to other states.  Let Mississippi lead the way in innovative thinking and critical problem solving for our industry.  Governor Reeves, I would love the opportunity to meet with you, put our solutions before you, and work in a cohesive manner to find viable, workable, solutions that ensure the public health safety concerns are met while allowing the thousands of salon owners, stylists, and barbers to return to work.  To return to supporting themselves and their families. Please do not diminish our craft and our many hours of education and training by not listening and helping us find solutions.  If we are, truly, “All in this, together” Governor Reeves, be part of our solution not part of our destruction. 

Thank you, in advance, for your time and your cooperative willingness to sit and listen in a concerted effort to re-open our industry.  I can be reached at 601-573-2490.  I hope to hear from you, Governor Reeves.  Thank you again.

I remain,

Sincerely,


Lindsay Cash
Owner/Stylist Vamp Salon