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As businesses in California begin reopening this weekend after being shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, nail salons and barbershops are planning to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom for not being included in the second phase of the state's reopening plan.
Newsom said last week that retailers with curbside pickup, including clothing stores, bookstores, sporting goods stores and florists, could begin a phased reopening starting Friday. When asked on Thursday about why nail salons and barbershops weren't included in the second phase, Newsom said it was because a nail salon was the origin of California's first community spread of coronavirus.
"This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon,' he said. 'I just want to remind everyone of that. I'm very worried about that."
Newsom added that "many of the practices that you would otherwise expect of a modification were already in play in many of these salons, with people that had procedure masks on, were using gloves, and were advancing higher levels of sanitation."
In response to the governor's comments, the Professional Beauty Federation of California published a new section on its website called "Time to Sue Governor Newsom."
"The PBFC has decided to sue Governor Newsom to force him to reopen our salons much sooner than his vowed 'months not weeks' timeline," the organization wrote. "We understand that not all salons and stylists will want to reopen under the current threat of this pandemic. Nothing in our legal challenge will force anyone to act against their will. We just believe that the formal education/training of our stylists warrant our safe reopening under additional 'social distancing' protocols, which our State Board and industry stakeholders have been putting together for weeks."
In a press release, PBFC President Ted D. Nelson said that the beauty industry has "stood in solidarity" with California's mission to flatten the curve and that the state has "met that noble goal."
Nelson added that an extension of the state's shutdown is not necessary to continue to combat the pandemic and believes it will result in "devastating consequences to the livelihood and businesses of tens of thousands of California citizens."
"Our licensed professionals are educated and trained to deal with cross-contamination and disinfection protocols in their licensed establishments," Nelson said. "Our clientele is our family, and we would do nothing to risk their health and safety. With the proper safety protocols in place, let’s allow our licensed professionals to get back to doing what they do best in a safe, well-regulated environment."
PBFC legal counsel and public policy director Fred Jones said that Newsom "cannot change the goal posts in the middle of the game by transitioning from reducing the contagion curve to stopping the spread altogether by extending the shutdown for several more months."
"If he does, most of our barbers, stylists, manicurists, and skin care professionals and the businesses they operate in will either fold up shop or resume their livelihoods in open defiance to feed their families and keep their businesses afloat," Jones said. "With the proper PPE and procedures in place, our licensed professionals can safely resume their services and contribute to California’s economic recovery."
According to the release, there are more than 500,000 licensees out of work due to California's coronavirus restrictions.
The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which regulates salons and barbershops in the state, warned in a statement on May 1 that any licensee who disregards California's stay-at-home order will face severe consequences.
"We have heard of businesses disregarding the stay at home orders," the board said. "If businesses continue to put public health and safety at risk by not following the state and local shelter in place orders, and if circumstances warrant it, the Board may pursue disciplinary action against their license. This will not be taken lightly."
On Friday, Newsom said salons and barbershops will be included in phase 3 of the state's reopening plan, which he believes could happen very soon if everyone continues to follow the state's reopening guidelines.
"Phase 3 is not a year away. It's not 6 months away. It's not even three months away. It may not even be more than a month away," Newsom said. "We just want to make sure we have a protocol in place to secure customer safety, employee safety and allow the businesses to thrive in a way that is sustainable."
There are currently more than 66,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 2,600 deaths in California.