In primary school, nearly all of us have heard about the 50 individual states in our country being “laboratories of democracy.” In some ways, during the COVID-19 pandemic, each of the 50 states in our nation are not only laboratories of democracy, but they’ve become something of laboratories of medical exploration as different tactics are employed regarding responses to the novel coronavirus. This is becoming very evident as each state begins to venture down its own unique pathway towards reopening businesses and working to move towards a greater sense of “normality” in the COVID-19 era. This process has raised the issue of how businesses such as hair salons, estheticians, massage therapists, body artists, and similar enterprises protect themselves and their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What We Do Know About COVID-19

Before diving into a more specific discussion, a brief overview about what we do know about COVID-19 is important. First and foremost, COVID-19 is highly contagious. COVID-19 can be contracted through person to person contact. In addition, this novel coronavirus has the ability to survive or live on surfaces and objects. Thus, if an infected individual sheds the virus on a surface or object, another person may come along and touch that surface or object and become infected. 

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 percent of people infected with COVID-19 will develop severe health problems. A yet precisely pinpointed number of people will die from the injection. Currently, that percentage seems to be somewhere between 1 and 4 percent.

A considerable percentage of people will experience only very mild or no symptoms at all. Many infectious disease experts have pegged that number at 25 percent, but concede it could be higher, and maybe even significantly so. Unlike a good many other viruses, infected people with no symptoms can spread the disease.  

Importance of Physical Distancing in Combating the Spread of COVID-19

There remains a good amount of confusion and debate over different issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. What is universally understood is that the primary method of transmission for the novel coronavirus is through person to person interaction. 

As a consequence, what oftentimes is called social distancing but really is physical distancing has become the most commonplace strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The most essential element of physical distancing is the ubiquitous directive to stay at least six feet apart from other people outside your immediate household (assuming no one in your household is infected or had recent contact with an infected person).

In professions and businesses like hair salons, estheticians, massage therapists, body artists, and so forth, in order to accomplish the objective of their work, social distancing is impossible. With that accurately noted, even before guidelines for the reopening of nonessential businesses recommended by the White House coronavirus taskforce, a trio of states have accelerated the reopening of certain nonessential businesses in their jurisdictions – California not being among them. California’s approach to business reopening can fairly be called highly deliberate.

Nonetheless, these types of businesses and professionals in California understandably are seeking strategies that permit them to safely serve the needs of their customers when stay at home and business restriction mandates ease.

All or Nothing Isn’t the Only Approach

As mentioned, less than a handful of states announced a broad reopening of businesses that include those that are the subject of this discussion as of the end of April. On some level, these states are pretty much leaving it up to these businesses and their patrons to muddle through the reopening process, and associated safety and health issues, on their own.

One state to date is taking a more moderate approach when it comes to some of these types of businesses. Specifically, the state of Maryland announced a relaxation of operating restrictions for hair salons. The governor of that state announced at the end of April that hair salons could resume very limited operations to serve people in essential businesses like medical personnel, first responders, and the like. Maryland very well may have created a model that ends up being followed by governors in other states, including possibly California. 

The Dawn of a COVID-19 Vaccine

The day will dawn on which a vaccine to protect against COVID-19 will be generally available to all of us. Infectious disease experts all agree on this point. There are questions about how long a vaccine might be effective. Indeed, there are a number of questions about what a COVID-19 vaccine will look like and how it will work. Nonetheless, a number of well-regarded research centers and other entities around the world already are well into the development of different vaccine alternatives for this dreadful, highly infectious disease. 

The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced recently that it has a vaccine beginning human testing that the agency believes will be available to healthcare and other frontline workers at the end of 2020 and to the general public (worldwide) by the spring of 2021. Yes, the day will dawn that a COVID-19 vaccination will be widely available. But, right now we are living at midnight with that day still quite far off. This reality is particularly problematic for businesses and professions that by definition require close physical contact between service providers and patrons. 

Onsite Testing of Staff and Patrons

One important tool that lessens the inherent health risks that can be associated with close person to person contact is what generally can be called reliable rapid onsite testing. These types of tests are in the pipeline and should become not only more reliable but more widely available (and more affordable) in the coming weeks. 

Through this testing, the staff of these types of businesses can be tested at the commencement of their shifts, with test data being made available to patrons. Similarly, patrons can submit to testing before their appointments commence. 

Personal Protective Equipment for Service Providers and Patrons

Both staff and patrons must be provided with suitable personal protective equipment before services are rendered. At a minimum, for both parties, this needs to include:

  • Face mask
  • Goggles or other protective eyewear
  • Gloves (mandatory for staff, for patrons if requested)

Quite like these professionals sterilize equipment between clients, staff at these businesses will need to re-garb with fresh personal protective equipment before each appointment. For example, disposable masks need to be replaced, multi-use goggles or other protective eyewear needs to be swapped with fresh, sterile equipment. 

Diligent personal hygiene for staff and patrons alike must be enforced. Hand washing is of particular importance. Having staff and clients undertake pre-appointment handwashing in front of one another not only addresses ensuring this barrier to spreading COVID-19 is in place but allows both parties reassurance that it is in fact appropriately occurring. 

Professional COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection

In addition to diligent ongoing cleaning and sanitization of surfaces, objects, equipment, and other items at these businesses, serious consideration must be paid to engaging the services of a reputable, experienced California COVID-19 cleaning company. A coronavirus cleaning and disinfection company can assist businesses like these in developing COVID-19 contamination control practices. 

These include professional COVID-19 cleaning and sanitization of the business premises and objects in it on a suitably regular basis. Not only does this practice protect against dangerous COVID-19 contamination but it sends a positive message to staff and patrons alike that addressing safety is a paramount concern.

Finally, if COVID-19 contamination is suspected, professional coronavirus cleaning and disinfection assistance should occur. A business should be temporarily closed to allow for prompt remediation as a means of protecting the health and welfare of workers and patrons alike.