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As Maine Reopens Hair Salons, Many Stylists Fear for Safety

According to federal OSHA guidelines, hair salons are "medium-risk" businesses for spreading COVID-19, and most governors are including them in later stages of reopening. (kaleido-dp/Pixabay)
According to federal OSHA guidelines, hair salons are "medium-risk" businesses for spreading COVID-19, and most governors are including them in later stages of reopening. (kaleido-dp/Pixabay)
May 11, 2020

TOPSHAM, Maine -- Maine is one of the first states to reopen hair salons, but so far, many who work in salons say it hasn't been worth it.

On May 1, Maine included hair salons in its first phase of business reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown. While many were eager to open, some salon owners have opted to stay closed, as workers voice concerns for their safety.

A cosmetologist, who asked to remain anonymous, said she felt she had to go back to keep her clients. But she isn't comfortable.

"I feel like a lab rat. I feel like I'm in an experiment," she said. "I cried about it Tuesday night, my first night getting home from work. I couldn't help but feel like I was being put in a situation to wait and see what happens."

Hundreds of stylists are now pushing Gov. Janet Mills to reverse her decision and instead include hair salons in the third phase of reopening the economy. According to the state's Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, there are more than 2,500 hair salons in Maine.

Julia Perry is a Brunswick-area hair stylist and cosmetologist leading the movement to delay hair salon openings to phase three. When she learned the governor had included them in phase one, Perry said she was upset - and asked on Facebook if others felt the same.

"I started this Facebook group at 2 a.m., while I was about shaking in the fetal position, on Wednesday after her announcement," Perry said. "And I just never could have imagined this many people feeling the same way, with the same exact concerns."

Perry is an independent contractor and said she won't reopen until there's more testing and other safety measures in place. She has asthma, is currently living with her parents, and doesn't want to put them - or herself - at risk.

Perry said the members of her Facebook group are split on whether they decided to go back to work.

The anonymous stylist said she's only seeing half the number of clients she did before because of all the sanitizing she does between appointments. She said she's working because she needs the income, but she wishes she didn't have to make that choice.

"I would feel a lot better if they were not included in phase one. I would feel a lot less pressure, a lot less stress, and a lot less anxiety," she said. "I love what I do. I say, 'I don't work a day in my life.' I really think we opened too soon."

She added it's hard to follow the strict guidelines, which include wearing a mask and face shield. She said the shield fogs up and it's difficult to breathe through the mask. And she said at one point, she almost fainted.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME