Editor’s note: This story has been updated with further information from Durham Region Public Health.
Durham Region Public Health has declared an outbreak at Supercuts hair salon in Pickering and now officials are warning anyone who was there earlier in March that there’s a high risk they were exposed to a COVID-19 variant of concern.
Dr. Robert Kyle, Durham Region’s chief medical officer of health, says staff issued the urgent alert in case anyone may have been in contact with those infected as they don’t know how many people could have been exposed.
“It’s rare that this happens and sometimes it does where we do have to go public,” he says.
Initially the public health department told Global News staff don’t have access to complete lists of everyone who visits a location where an outbreak has been declared. However, after publication of this story, a spokesperson clarified the comments to say the owner of the location in question has been working with officials.
“The owner has been fully cooperative in providing all information requested by Durham Region Health Department, including client lists, in a timely manner.”
Durham Public Health says those who received service at the location are being advised of a high-risk of exposure to COVID-19. They are asking anyone who was there between March 18 and March 21 to immediately self-isolate and get tested as soon as possible.
“They may be incubating COVID-19 and not know it,” says Kyle. “During that time they may be incubating, there may be a period of asymptomatic spread or pre-symptomatic spread.”
Durham Public Health says the company reported a confirmed case of a variant of concern to them on March 24. While it isn’t clear how the outbreak began, or who contracted the virus — franchise owner Luther Winchell says in previous inspections it was determined they were following public health guidelines.
In a statement to Global News the owner says, “As soon as we were aware there was possible exposure, we immediately shut down the salon and contacted public health,” he said. The company says they are fully co-operating with Durham Public Health and are contacting customers as well who may have been in contact.
Winchell adds that the salon has already gone through a deep clean and they are confident salons are still safe.
“This is the first time since COVID-19 that we are aware of any outbreaks in a hair salon in Ontario. With the stringent public health protocols and PPE in place, we still believe that salons are a safe environment.”
It was last year where several nail salons in Kingston were forced to close after health officials linked a number of COVID-19 cases to them.
The news of the latest outbreak in Pickering comes as a shock to local hairstylist at Heads Up hair salon, Angela Croft.
“It’s one of us and it could have happened to anyone. It’s scary,” she says.
Croft adds she feels bad for the owner and what they must be going through. Durham hair salons just re-opened after months of being shut down — and hearing of any outbreak in the industry hits a little close to home.
“We’re all trying our best. We kind of have to keep pushing through and keep doing what we’re doing.”
Supercuts is currently closed and has been given clearance Durham Public Health to reopen as of Saturday. Officials urge anyone who may have been in the salon during the above mentioned dates, to book a test as soon as they can.
The outbreak comes as the province has announced they are lifting restrictions on salons in the Toronto and Peel regions starting April 12. Owners are hopeful the most recent closure doesn’t put them at risk of being shut down again.