COVID-19: Alberta barbershop vows to stay open despite AHS ordering its closure

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A barbershop in Innisfail, Alta., was given a verbal warning from RCMP Tuesday after it decided to open despite a provincial order for personal service businesses to remain closed.

Last week, Premier Jason Kenney announced that restrictions would stay in place until Jan. 21 in order to try and reduce COVID-19 cases.

Bladez 2 Fadez owner Natalie Klein, who is the niece of former premier Ralph Klein, said she opened the shop on Jan. 12 because it is what her uncle would have wanted.

“We’re doing this in support of what Ralph would have done for the province,” Klein said.

RCMP attended the shop and gave a verbal warning. A “closed to the public” sign was also seen posted on the shop shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday.

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Klein said that she was only allowing one customer in the shop at a time. She added that they have to wear masks and she said she completed haircuts within a 15-minute time frame.

“The customers have all booked online,” explained Klein. “They arrive at the door, I come get them — by name — they come in and it’s only me and my husband. He’s running the desk and I’m doing the cutting.”

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She said that she felt the new rules were punishing small businesses and that hair salons aren’t areas where the coronavirus is being spread.

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“According to Alberta Health, it takes longer than 15 minutes for transmission, so everyone that has been in here, it has been 10 minutes or less out the door,” Klein said.

“I don’t think I’m breaking rules, I think this is essential for our survival.”

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During her news conference Tuesday afternoon, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said it was crucial for business owners across the province to follow rules to prevent the province’s health-care system from being overwhelmed.

“I recognize that business owners are being impacted by the restrictions and that these are causing hardships for many individuals,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

“I also recognize that if we do not have an approach that involves all of our community members working together to prevent spread, we risk having more deaths and increasing that burden on our health-care system.”

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When asked what punishment Hinshaw would like to see for businesses flouting the rules, she said public health officials will first work to make sure business owners both understand the rules and why they are in place. But, if the restrictions are still not followed, there will be further consequences.

“(There) will be consequences for not following those rules, because that is what our communities need right now.”

In an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon, Alberta Health Services said inspectors with environmental public health, along with the RCMP, did an inspection at the barber shop Tuesday after being notified owners planned top reopen.

“As the facility was operating and taking client appointments, a closure order was issued for failure to comply with Public Health Order 42,” AHS said.

“At this time, hairstyling and barbering services are not permitted to operate under the current public health restrictions. Failure to comply with the closure order could result in fines up to $5,000 per day for which businesses are found to be in violation.”

AHS said inspectors would continue checking on all businesses that have been issued a public health order to ensure they’re complying with the guidelines.

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As for Bladez 2 Fadez — the shop remained open Tuesday despite the order and Klein said she intended to open to customers again Wednesday morning.

Anyone found in violation of a public health order can be issued an $1,000 fine and upwards of $100,000 if prosecuted for a first offence.

–With files from Allison Bench, Heide Pearson, Global News and Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED