Coronavirus at the salon: Should you cancel hair, nail and wax appointments?

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Editor’s note: Fuzz Wax Bar temporarily closed all locations after the publication of this story.

As the number of cases of the new coronavirus in Canada continues to rise, public health officials are warning Canadians to stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread.

You might have an appointment to visit a salon — whether it’s to cut your hair, to get your nails done or to have a wax — but is this the right time to go?

READ MORE: Officials urge Canadians to ‘avoid all cruise ship travel’ over COVID-19 risk

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, some companies have announced new cleaning and hygiene procedures.

Fuzz Wax Bar sent an email to clients outlining the additional ways they will clean their spaces to prevent the spread of germs. Among them are: additional health and sanitation training for employees and heavy sanitization of tools. First Choice Haircutters said it is “increasing and adding to [the] current supply of cleaning and sanitizing materials to ensure … stylists can clean and disinfect the salon even more thoroughly throughout the course of the day,” in a statement posted to its website.
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However, whether these additional steps will be enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus remains to be seen.

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“I would not recommend going to any of those appointments because they’re not in keeping with social distancing,” said Dr. Jeff Kwong, a scientist at Public Health Ontario and associate director of the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto.

“I know others may feel differently, but they are not essential. We’re talking about a crisis situation and we all have to do our part.”

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Kwong said “not looking one’s best” is a small and temporary sacrifice for the greater good of society.

READ MORE: 313 Canadians diagnosed with coronavirus, chief health officer says

That’s especially the case considering what healthcare workers would have to deal with if the local epidemic grows too large too quickly for the healthcare system to manage because some people are not practising social distancing, Kwong said.

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If you’re wary of a salon’s hygiene practices, Stephen Hoption Cann recommends calling ahead to “determine how well they are cleaning surfaces and ensuring no sick employees are coming to work.”

“These places are susceptible to spread if appropriate practices are not in place,” said Hoption Cann, a clinical professor in the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadian Blood Services concerned about possibility of shortages amid outbreak

Salons should be asking employees and customers with cold symptoms to avoid the store “until they are clear of their illness,” Hoption Cann said.

How to practise social distancing

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) defines social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately six feet or two meters) from others when possible.”

Canada’s public health agency’s guide for provincial and local health authorities defines social distancing as steps to “minimize close contact” with people in the community, such as “quarantine or self-isolation at the individual level” along with broader steps such as avoiding crowds.

So far, it has a chart with different recommendations for people with varying risks. For instance, for someone who’s had “close, unprotected contact” with a COVID-19 case, the recommendation is voluntary home quarantine.

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How privilege plays a part

The ability to stay home from work is a privilege, said Suzanne Sicchia, associate professor at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

“The most marginalized among us are also the most vulnerable,” she said. “They can’t necessarily realize these recommendations.”

Sicchia believes it’s crucial to consider privilege and financial security in discussions around preventing spread of coronavirus.

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“Many more folks working in precarious, poorly paid positions in the service sector could experience tremendous financial hardship,” Sicchia said.

“We need to think about how we will house and care for the homeless through this crisis, how we will protect folks from job losses, lost wages and evictions, and how we will provide quality and timely healthcare to the uninsured.”

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“Every part of our approach to COVID-19 … must be equity-oriented and evidence-based.”

The new coronavirus was first identified in Hubei province, China, in December 2019 and spread rapidly. While the outbreak has begun to level off in China, it seems the virus has found a foothold in a number of countries around the world, and it continues to spread.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Maryam Shah

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