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Local salons and beauty parlors consider re-opening under new guidelines to be announced this week


CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming barber shops, cosmetologists, massage and other businesses have been closed since March 25 when a third statewide public health order amid the COVID-19 outbreak was announced.

Now, business owners in those industries are awaiting the specifics of new public health orders from Governor Mark Gordon and state health officials. In a press briefing on Thursday, April 23, Gordon said that barber shops, cosmetologists and gyms would “likely” be able to open next week. The new orders will extend to May 15.

Not knowing exactly what possibly relaxed restrictions will specifically look like has left some cosmetologists and salons in the Casper area unclear about what they should prepare for.

Leah Juarez, owner of The FOX Spa in Casper, says that she and some of the seven people working there have been involved in discussions on “Wyoming Cosmetologists” Facebook group.

That group is specifically for licensed professional cosmetologists, nail techs and estheticians. Juarez says that many people in the group are unclear about what is next. If cosmetologists and salons see restrictions relaxed, it will depend on how those restrictions look whether businesses will immediately reopen. 

“Right now a lot of salons are talking about not opening,” Juarez says.

“Absolutely none of us got any hard-set rules,” Juarez added on Friday. “We are just as confused now as we were before that [Thursday press briefing].”

Juarez and  FOX Spa employee Megan Covert add that they they haven’t received clear guidance from the Wyoming Board of Cosmetology, though they say the board has submitted a suggested set of protocols for the Wyoming Department of Health and state officials to consider. 

“It is kind of my guess that they are going to follow the guidelines that other states have followed,” Juarez adds, noting that state like Georgia and Montana have issued COVID-19 guidelines for cosmetologists. Those guidelines include health screening questions and forehead thermometer checks for clients and masks for workers. 

“If I have to go as far as taking people’s temperatures before they come in, I will absolutely do so because the safety of the clients and myself is number-one priority.” said Brittany Draper, who has worked for 5 years as a licensed aesthetician and independent contractor. 

Licensed cosmetologists have qualifications for control of infectious viruses and hazardous materials. Draper said stringent practices were in place well before the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “We sanitize just as much as a doctor’s office or hospital,” Draper said. “Our main goal in the field of what we do is to disinfect between every client.” 

“The reality is, we deal with dangerous materials every day. ” Juarez added.

Covert noted that while cosmetologists are well-trained in sterilization practices for hard surfaces, airborne pathogens are another matter entirely.

“I’m concerned for my industry if they don’t train us,” said Juarez, who has a hazardous materials certification. But she added that requiring PPE isn’t meaningful if people aren’t properly trained how to use it.

In other states, personal protective equipment (PPE) for cosmetologists and clients vary. Juarez adds that restrictions vary in terms of how many clients can be served. 

Some places are limiting not only how many clients can be in a space at a time, but limiting the overall number of people can be seen a day. Covert notes that if salons are only able to accept a 1 or 2 clients a day, it won’t be cost effective to open. 

If the restrictions require switching PPE between each client, including smocks, gloves and masks, these material costs could likewise add up. 

Juarez says what the spa will do depends on what further guidance they receive from health officials.

“It’s a tough thing to answer,” she says. “It just depends on what they are going to ask of us.”

Professionals in the beauty industry are also frustrated by the separation from their clientele.

“Some clients that are “pretty much ‘lash-or-die.’” Draper said. “That’s their getaway, where they get to be free and talk about life and their family situations or get away from the kids for an hour.”

She says some reach out to her “almost daily” about arranging, somehow, to contract her services. “I say ‘absolutely not.’ You know, that’s my license on the line, my career on the line.”

“It is also very insulting to find out we are not considered essential,” Covert said.

Juarez said beauty professionals provide services to people who are unable to wash their own hair or trim their own nails. Juarez notes that she has clients with Alzheimer’s or other conditions which prevent them from taking care of their own hygiene. 

“In my salon personally, we have about 7 clients who require basic hygiene services,” Juarez says. “It is very much essential for those who require it.”

Another area of frustration is the difficulty in securing federal financial loans available to help small business amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Juarez says she has applied for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the advanced “IDEL” and did so as soon as applications became available.

“We have not received any financial assistance to date,” she said. “It is a little frustrating.”

Since closing, the FOX Spa have been selling products through their website and have been doing some auctions. They’ve also been working to make face masks for sale. 

But some are struggling.

“I think we are walking a fine line,” Juarez says. She notes that protecting public health is important, but there are also “single mothers are home with three kids and no way to feed them.”

Draper, a single mother of 3, did not qualify for business assistance or unemployment insurance. 

“Work is my passion” said Draper. “That’s where I’m happy, doing what I love to do and seeing my clients.”

She added, “Our spa is very clean. So I’m not even nervous. I just pray that they let us back to work.” 

Notes: Oil City News Managing Editor Brendan LaChance contributed research and interviews to this story