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Alberta hairdressers concerned about reopening May 14

Alberta hairdressers concerned about reopening on May 14
WATCH ABOVE: Dozens of hairdressers in Alberta are calling on the provincial government to do more to protect them, and their clients before the province takes another step forward in its COVID-19 relaunch plan. Sarah Ryan has the details.

Online petitions calling for the province to reconsider having hair salons and barbershops open as early as May 14 have now garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

A number of petitions popped up on Change.org over the last week, after Premier Jason Kenney announced hairdressers would be invited to open earlier than other personal services.

READ MORE: Jason Kenney releases Alberta’s phased relaunch plan

Levi Cox, the owner of Catwalk Salon & Spa in Lethbridge, says he was shocked by the early reopening date. He wasn’t expecting to head back to work until the summer, because of the lack of social distancing involved in salons.

But as soon as the UCP government made the announcement, clients wanted to make appointments.

“The phones were off the hook. The inboxes, the DMs, everyone wants their hair done,” Cox said.

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READ MORE: To cut or not to cut? Edmonton salon owner warns of ‘Corona-cuts’ during pandemic

Even those eager to get a trim were concerned about what safeguards Catwalk would have in place, he added.

“We want to get our hands in your hair as soon as possible, but safely.”

Cox said he also heard fears from staff members who are leery about the prospect of opening.

“One of the concerns is, they don’t want to be the guinea pigs. They don’t want to be the ones rolled out first in this coronavirus pandemic because we don’t know if it’s safe yet. There’s a lot of apprehension.”

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He said as a business owner, there’s a risk to staying closed longer.

“As a business, if you’re not ready, are your clientele going to go somewhere else?” he asked.

READ MORE: Alberta restaurants ask Jason Kenney for clear rules before they reopen during COVID-19 pandemic

Cox explained he’s been looking to other provinces to see what guidance they’re giving his industry, as Alberta has yet to announce regulations for hairdressers.

That’s a concern for Kaitlyn Wegner, a hair stylist in Edmonton. She works at Rock, Paper Shears and said many of her coworkers are also worried.

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“We currently don’t have any procedures or protocols in place by the government. We also can’t maintain any kind of social distancing in our job position.”

She has a number of questions she feels need to be answered before going back to work: including whether or not hairdressers will be able to access the necessary personal protective equipment.

“We’re one of the only industries, personal services in general, that in the first 60 seconds of meeting someone, you have to touch them.”

Wegner said dozens of different people come to salons daily, and worries they could become the centre of outbreaks.

“We can wash and protect ourselves as much as we can, but we can’t rely on everyone to do the same. What if we potentially became carriers to now hundreds of people?” she explained.

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NDP Leader Rachel Notley held a video conference Thursday afternoon with 20 concerned barbers, salon owners and hair stylists.

Each one posed a question for the provincial government about how they should proceed with reopening.

“Jason Kenney and the UCP must address their concerns immediately, so these Albertans can plan appropriately — or decide for themselves if the risk of returning to work is too great,” Notley said.

Just a few hours later, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed the industry’s questions in the daily coronavirus media briefing.

“We are continuing to work on additional risk mitigation information for barbers and hair stylists in preparation for Phase 1 of relaunch.”

She said hairdressers were placed in Phase 1 because they have provincial testing and certifications, which include an element of public health.

Provincial officials have stressed the May 14 opening date is not mandatory for businesses listed in Phase 1 of the relaunch, and they can reopen later once they feel they can do so safely.

Other personal services are set to reopen during Phase 2, which does not yet include a date.