Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was among the last state leaders to issue a stay-at-home order, effective April 3. Now, he is among the first to ease those restrictions, allowing certain close-contact businesses to reopen such as gyms, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys.
The decision has faced heavy criticism from health officials and mayors across the state. It also goes against advice rooted in a data model often cited by the White House.
It has left the choice to reopen up to business owners, many of whom have been without revenue for five weeks. Some owners have chosen to stay closed, but there are some who feel they can safely offer their services under the strict reopening guidelines.
Robyn Kelley has owned and operated Trendz Salon in Martinez, GA for almost ten years. She closed a week before the statewide shelter-in-place order was issued. She is among those who chose to open their doors to customers on Friday. The phone rang several times while News Channel 6 was at her salon, with customers asking to get an appointment. And she says those that had already received services were glad she was open.
“They have been so thankful for that,” said Kelley. “As people leave they’ve told me thank you, and as you can see the phone is ringing off the hook,” she said as the phone rang at the front desk.
Shelley Craft owns The Men’s Refinery in downtown Augusta. She says having customers come in to get services is safer than going to someone’s house because of the guidelines her salon has to abide by.
“People have been needing haircuts,” say Craft. “They’ve been calling their stylist, they’re asking them to come to their house, or they’re doing haircuts at places that aren’t safe,” she added.
“If a business wants to go through the trouble of opening up (under the guidelines), that’s the safest place to be,” said Craft.
Kelley took News Channel 6 through the extra safety procedures customers will go through before they can get services.
“You have to have an appointment, we’re not taking walk-ins at all,” said Kelley. She added that they are only taking about half the normal bookings they would so they can space out how many people are in the salon at one time. Customers with an appointment must stay in their car until it’s time for them to go in the salon.
Before entering, an employee will take each customer’s temperature. Then they must answer questions about their recent travel and current health. Once inside, there are regular sanitation measures and employees and customers must wear masks.
“There’s really no safer environment than what we’re doing,” said Craft. “We are held to the standards of a doctors office, as far as the cleaning that we have to do,” she added.
“We’re already cutting our revenue in half in order to be able to operate,” said Craft. “But 50% of revenue is better than zero,” added Craft.
“Most of my girls here are renters, so if they don’t work, they don’t get paid,” said Kelley.
Restaurant owners will face the decision on whether or not to open next week, when they will be allowed to begin dine-in service under certain restrictions on Monday, April 27.