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Salons, barber shops, and gyms get ready to reopen 

click to enlarge Rochester City Council Vice President at his barbershop on Jefferson Avenue. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Rochester City Council Vice President at his barbershop on Jefferson Avenue.
After a flurry of excited calls from her employees and customers Friday, when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that salons, barber shops, and gyms located in COVID-19 "orange zones" could reopen on Monday, Kym Reed found herself doing math.

“If I worked an eight-hour day theoretically, at an hour per visit, I could do eight haircuts, at 25 percent of that, two hair cuts,” Reed, who owns Blue Marble Hair Parlour on East Ave. calculated. She’s not sure if it's sustainable.

Her business is in Rochester's state-designated orange zone and like some other businesses, Blue Marble was forced to close on the day before Thanksgiving. Orange zones are areas with high levels of COVID-19 cases.

Reed said operating at 25 percent capacity — on top social distancing and masking requirements — as required under orange zone rules will make it harder for her and her employees to keep going. She’s hoping the state will provide clarity to the requirements in the coming days.

A graphic from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s news conference on Friday showed the hair and personal care industry, which is mostly barber shops and salons, is the origin of only .14 percent of all COVID-19 cases statewide.

With that data now public, Reed, who is quick to applaud Cuomo’s overall performance with the pandemic, can’t help but wonder why her business was shut down at all.

“We’re being conscientious for our own safety and our customer’s safety,” said Reed. “So to be sitting home for the past two weeks, knowing that we’re not the primary route of transmission, but feeling like we’ve been singled out, just because of optics, just because it looks like we’re close to people, has been frustrating.”

It seems the cry from barber and Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot was heard. He organized a petition signed by more than 1,000 people asking Cuomo to reopen salons and barber shops in orange zones.

During his appearance on WXXI’s Connections with Evan Dawson Friday, he said businesses should be compensated for their losses during one of their busiest times of the year.

“There’s a loss of income that should be recouped to this industry,” said Lightfoot. “In my opinion, three weeks of income is a lot.”

He also encouraged state and local governments to use barber shops and salons to inform the public about COVID-19.

“These are the places where people trust and where people have relationships and they can be very instrumental in spreading education about this virus,” said Lightfoot.

He also encouraged barber shop and salon owners to continue following existing state protocols because the low percentage of cases in these locations means it's working.

Cuomo also permitted the reopening of gyms in orange zones. New York state contact tracing data says gyms are the source of .06 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Jeff Saunders, owner of Athletic Apex, a small chain of gyms with a location in Penfield, said the numbers are trending that way nationwide. He also said mandatory masking helped keep those numbers low in gyms.

“I think gyms already were in a better spot to stay cleaner, better than most industries but the mandates made helped ensure that there was going to be no issue.”

Saunders expects to reopen soon with limited capacity and expects many in his industry to follow suit.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.

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