Cosmetology workers frustrated with extended closures
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Gov. Ivey’s new health order is effective Friday at 5 p.m. It allows some businesses to open at 50 percent capacity, but direct-contact work, like salons and barber shops, have been ordered to stay closed till May 15.

This is frustrating for Bri Riley, who’s a single mom and usually works as a lead wax technician at Cabana Wax in Huntsville. She says she is professionally trained and licensed to provide a clean, sanitary environment and services. If big retail services, who aren’t professionally trained, can provide their services, why can’t she?

“I have that training to make sure that all my tools are perfect and clean, and completely sanitized and ready for my next guest,” Riley said.

But the Alabama Department of Public Health says that’s still not enough.

“Even though these professionals are trained in sanitation, there’s still a very difficult situation here,” said state health officer Dr. Karen Landers. “It would be virtually impossible to maintain six feet of separation.”

Riley argues she’s trained to avoid many other infections diseases, like HIV, MRSA, staph, and tuberculosis.

“I just think it’s absolutely insane that you trust us with those infectious diseases, but you don’t trust us with COVID-19.”

But the state says it’s more complicated than that, because COVID-19 is a different beast. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that can be transmitted through something as simple as speaking, or even breathing.”

“Primarily talking about diseases that can be transmitted through tools or contact, as opposed to a respiratory droplet which is a different situation,” Dr. Landers said.

Riley says she understands the difference, but is confident her medically-grade disinfectant table is still one of the cleanest places anyone could be during these times.

“If it comes down to wearing a different face mask for each client, if that’s what makes you feel better about letting us open, I’ll do whatever it takes,” Riley said.

Dr. Landers said she believes the next step for opening these businesses will be to require face masks while providing these services, and that training on respiratory diseases like COVID-19 will likely be required for the cosmetology industry in the future.

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