Should Vermont revisit reopening strategy to reopen hair salons?

Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 11:37 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s been 225 days since Vermont Governor Phil Scott declared a state of emergency, forcing an unprecedented economic shutdown. Some restrictions have since been lifted or loosened, which has impacted some businesses more than others.

Hair salons were one of the last to reopen, with some of the strictest health and safety mandates. Those mandates include one person in the business per 200 square feet and one customer per stylist.

Glenn Brown is the owner of Chop Shop in downtown Burlington. He says he’s following all the safety rules but argues the “one size fits all” state plan for salons is unnecessarily hurting his business.

“There are times where services last up to about an hour and a half to two hours, and they’re sitting there for 40 minutes, and in that 40 minutes, if you’re able to have another person come in and get a hair cut, and still keep them six feet apart and still have them wear their masks and practice all those sanitary rules, I don’t see where that would be an issue,” Brown adds. “It definitely would make a huge difference because you’re able to garner more revenue.”

Brown reached out to us because he wasn’t having any success connecting with state leaders.

“We have been taking a look at how we can surgically make some changes in the guidelines to allow for different salons to make adjustments, but it hasn’t been the highest priority at this point in time,” says Gov. Scott said. “At the end of the day, we have to make sure that we’re not adding to the problem that we’re seeing today.”

Health Commissioner Mark Levine says he’s not aware of any cases connected to a salon or barbershop.

“I’m not aware of a specific case,” says Dr. Levine. “We may need to research this a little more. I am not aware of a glaring case that came to mind. So that means either we’re too strict and we should be loosening up, or it means we are just as strict as we need to be and that accounts for the success of not having any cases.”

Brown says his concern extends beyond his hair salon. He says addressing the problems in the state’s reopening plan can keep Vermont businesses that employee people and pay taxes open. If Chop Shop Hair Design closes, it’s one less business contributing to the health and wealth of the City of Burlington and the State of Vermont.

Governor Scott says his restart team meets multiple times per week, but wouldn’t say when they would revisit the rules for salons. In the meantime, grant money is available for small businesses.

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