Despite the OK, Sonoma County will not rush to open barbershops, hair salons

Health officials in Sonoma County say even though California has approved re-opening personal services, they do not plan to immediately re-open salons or places of worship.

The county will continue with "current restrictions" because they have seen "a large increase" in the number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the past week.

The decision to hold back was made on the same day that Gov. Gavin Newsom said that 47 out of the state's 58 counties were allowed to move forward and open the shops if they met certain criteria. In the Bay Area, only Sonoma, Solano and Napa counties were given that OK.

Still, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase Mase told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that she is not ready to allow haircuts after looking at the coronavirus infection rates, hospitalization numbers and continued PPE shortages in the county. There were 83 positive cases last week, the county said in a tweet.

Mase described the specific conditions of cutting hair as particularly dangerous in terms of contagion.

“It’s very close, one-on-one interaction between two people, for a prolonged period of time,” she told the Press Democrat. “It could be a half-hour, it could be three hours, as we all know. It’s an indoor setting. There are often going to be smaller establishments that don’t have a lot of air exchange.”

In Napa County, however, hair stylists and their customers were excited to soon have their long locks trimmed and shaped.

Many salons, watching the guidelines adopted in other states, have been getting prepared while closed. 

"I had 30 to 40 text messages from clients as soon as it hit the news," said Josh Sutton, owner of Crown Hair Salon in downtown Petaluma. 

When he reopens his remodeled salon, it will be tailored to the COVID-era, a workspace more like a hospital than a hang-out. 

"It's kind of the new normal and we're learning quickly," said Sutton. "We're looking at the salon and `each zone, and realizing how to make that an even safer environment." 

Crown will have touchless features throughout, not at sanitizer stations, but operating sinks and soap dispensers too.

"We're not able to put in couches, so we put in separate seating," said Sutton. 

Since keeping people apart is the priority, he has traded his reception area for an expanded shampoo room.

Still a work in progress, Sutton isn't stressing about losing one more week. 

"I'm not going to slap it up because I want it finished right the first time so I don't have to do it again." 

For counties that do want to open barbershops and salons, here are some of the rules they must follow: 

—Workers and customers must wear face coverings. Workers should also use eye protection and gloves.

—All workers must be screened for temperature or symptoms at the beginning of their shift along with any vendors or contractors entering the establishment. Workers may alternatively self-screen at home, and should be encouraged to stay home if exhibiting symptoms.

—Customers should be screened and businesses should cancel or reschedule customers who show any signs of illness.

—Plans must be in place for frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas and work stations. Amenities such as magazines, books, coffee and water must be removed. A new smock or cape should be provided to each customer.

—Physical distancing of at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) must be maintained except during hair cutting and other close-contact services. If appropriate for the service, customers should be requested to arrive with freshly cleaned hair.

—Appointments should be staggered to reduce congestion and allow enough time for cleaning between each customer’s visit. Customers should wait outside or in their cars to avoid congregating. Workers should not serve multiple customers at the same time.

—Customers must be encouraged to use credit cards or exact cash.

—Non-electric tools such as shears and electrical tools should be cleaned. Workers must wear gloves when handling dirty linens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.