Senator calls for barber, beauty shops to reopen

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The President Pro Tem of the North Carolina State Senate says its time Gov. Roy Cooper gave counties the discretion to allow barber and beauty shops to reopen amid the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) told the governor in a press release Wednesday it’s time to reopen salons, following the suit of surrounding states.

"The majority of states in our region and the country have reviewed the science, facts, and data and reached a different conclusion than Gov. Cooper's," Berger said. "What is his strategic endgame in choosing a different path based on similar facts and data? We need a view into his administration's goals and thinking."

As of Wednesday 25 states, including nearly every southeastern state, have reopened salons and barber shops in one capacity or another and three more have announced the same action in the next few days.

Berger called for Cooper to ease the restrictions, not only for the benefit of the public’s personal hygiene, but also to let small businesses have a chance to get back to work.

“It’s time to follow the lead of the majority of states in our region and the country,” Berger said. “Hair salon owners and employees can’t work and many of them still can’t get unemployment assistance from the Cooper administration. Gov. Cooper needs to provide counties with the flexibility to reopen hair salons and barber shops if they choose.”

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, addressed Berger’s statements during a press conference in Raleigh Wednesday.

The state is using a methodical approach to reopening and is using facts, science and other data to make the determination when to reopen close-proximity businesses where social distancing is an ongoing issue, she said.

Because patrons are unable to move around and stay at least 6 feet apart, it’s too early to open those shops, Cohen said.

“We know the virus is transmitted more when someone is in close proximity over a longer period of time,” she said. “And by nature of a salon and barber shop, obviously, that is where you are sitting down for a longer period of time, people are working on someone’s hair.”

Cooper’s phased approach will likely allow shops to reopen in Phase 2 which could begin in just over a week, if the data proves it viable.

“We want to have those activities return and in Phase 2 we contemplate that returning,” she said. “The issue is about risk. We wanted folks to first start with the lower risk activities then we would move forward with some [of] these higher risk activities... We felt going to all of those right at first might be too much for North Carolina.”

“We still see a lot of virus here,” she said. “And we want to be sure that we’re not going to see a surge of cases, and we’ve been very successful at doing that in our state.”

Cohen urged continued patience from residents saying Phase 2 could begin in less than two weeks.

Berger disagreed with how the administration is interpreting the data being used to make decisions regarding reopening the state’s business sector. He told Cooper and his staff they need to rethink the path North Carolina is currently traveling.

“Up to now, Gov. Cooper’s position has been to subject small business owners to fines and arrest,” Berger said. “It’s time to take a different approach and let these small business operators and employees return to work legally and safely.”

In order to return, Berger called for affected shops to take a common sense approach to reopening and handling clients.

He said counties should be permitted to reopen shops provided they follow similar rules already in place in other states:

  • Scheduling customers by appointment only,
  • Declining customers and sending employees home who have COVID-like symptoms,
  • Requiring employees and customers to wear masks,
  • Removing communal materials like magazines,
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment after each use.

Joining Berger in calling out the governor’s plan, Brunswick County Sen. Bill Rabon chided Cooper for his prohibition on salons and barber shops, the backlog of unemployment benefits and the delay in sending out payments to workers who are still trying to make ends meet.

“Gov. Cooper can’t have it both ways,” Rabon said. “He can’t prohibit people from working, and then fail to provide the unemployment assistance that people are due.”

Cooper is expected to address the latest situation during a press conference on Thursday.

Rick Curl can be reached at rcurl@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2037.

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