LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Eli Lopez is a master barber at Barber 2 You in Los Angeles.
“We are working outside, because that is the only place that we’re allowed to work,” Lopez said.
Currently, California is the only state not allowing hair salon services indoors.
So, each 12-hour day starts with Lopez moving his equipment out onto the sidewalk.
“Yeah, this particular chair is about 200-250 pounds,” Lopez said.
Lopez says the situation isn’t ideal. He would much rather be inside. But according to Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Neha Nanda, if you want to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it technically is safer outside.
“It continues to be airborne, as in it sustains in the air for longer than we previously thought. So, if you’re outside, you’re not relying on the ventilation,” Dr. Nanda said.
Lopez argues it’s more difficult to follow sanitation protocol outside.
“The trouble with being outside is that the wind blows and so we cut hair and it goes everywhere so it’s hard to control hair. Hair, as we know, isn’t always clean,” Lopez said.
He’s concerned about hair blowing into his eyes and the eyes of customers – potentially spreading the virus. However, Nanda says there’s no proof of that yet.
“Today, we don’t know of any kind of transmission happening by way of our hair strand or hair follicle,” Nanda said.
The other issue Lopez states is the lack of control in a parking lot. Customers agree, but there are other positives to being outside, like the sun.
“You’re actually utilizing sunny California to deactivate the virus,” Nanda said.
Nanda says working outside is much more possible in a state like California than other states, especially when winter comes. Nonetheless, hair stylists are coming together as many aren’t legally able to work right now.
“We don’t make the majority of our living on haircuts," hair colorist Gino Rodney said. "We have to do hair color – we’re all hair colorists – so we make our living off our larger services, and if we’re not able to do that inside, there’s no option for us outside.”
Salon Republic Founder and CEO Eric Taylor organized a peaceful protest to inspire the governor to allow services inside again.
“The CDC has endorsed our protocols," Taylor said. "They did an exhaustive study about two COVID-positive hair dressers in Missouri who unwittingly saw 139 clients. Not one of the 139 clients got infected.”
In the study Eric is referring to, the CDC is outlining the importance of wearing masks since the hair stylists and customers were wearing masks. Hair colorist Gino Rodney argues mask wearing in addition to their sanitation training should be enough to keep clients safe.
“We train for 1600 hours just to be licensed in sanitation, disinfection and sterilization,” Rodney said.
Nanda says that does make a big difference, but the challenge right now is that COVID-19 numbers are just too high.
“That’s great, kudos to them, and that’s the training they can leverage when they’re outside. And when rates go down and are under control and move inside,” Nanda said.
There’s no perfect solution to preventing the spread of the virus. Each state is trying to balance the health of human beings, as well as their economic wellbeing. Lopez says if you’re a customer in California, there are ways you can help.
“If you’re a customer out there, and your stylist or barber is unable to perform outside, you can go ahead and pay for future services. That’s a huge support to them.”
Even though he’s sad to know so many of his friends are unable to work right now, Lopez says he’s doing what he can to make sure he and his customers stay safe.
“Ya know, we do what we gotta do in order to comply and pretty much give them the same service that they’re normally used to,” Lopez said.