Businesses Hoping to Reopen Join Run on PPE

By: - May 22, 2020 12:00 am

Barbershops like this one in Orlando, Florida, are some of the first businesses allowed to reopen as states lift restrictions across the country. Many businesses have struggled with finding protective supplies for their staff. Paul Hennessy/Sipa via AP Images

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Nikia Londy’s employees are afraid to come back to work.

The owner of Intriguing Hair, a salon in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, thought her stylists would be eager to return. But they don’t feel safe, she said.

Like other states, Massachusetts has released standards businesses must follow to reopen after two months of quarantine. Among the dozens of requirements, every employee at salons and barbershops must wear face masks and eye protection. Faced with choosing vendors despite knowing little about the equipment, Londy is struggling to procure this safety gear before reopening May 25.

“I don’t even know where to get that,” she said.

As every state gradually lifts coronavirus restrictions, employers are scrambling to get enough protective equipment to create a safe work environment. Buying safety equipment, however, has created additional challenges for businessowners, who may be unfamiliar with vendors and potential scammers.

Adding to that concern, a recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans fear exposing their households to the novel coronavirus upon returning to work. Some states, such as Connecticut and Maine, have delayed reopening some businesses out of fear it might be too soon and dangerous.

Maine has allowed barbershops and hair salons to reopen across the state, requiring face masks and spread-out chairs. But that doesn’t mean stylists were eager to get back to work.

Julia Perry, a Brunswick, Maine-based cosmetologist, has been frustrated with that state’s plan to reopen. It is too soon, she said. It puts her health and the health of her clients at risk. She is still waiting to receive an order of surgical masks.

She has resisted beginning her services thus far. But if she doesn’t start soon, she fears she will lose many of her 250 clients. “It’s a real slap in the face,” she said. “I don’t think the state is taking us seriously. There’s not enough testing. We feel like guinea pigs.”

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.