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Lamont Postpones Reopening Of Beauty Salons and Barbershops Until June

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A closed sign on a barbershop in New London, Conn.

As the state’s businesses start to reopen this week, barbershops and hair salons will not be among them.

Both were initially slated for a May 20 reopening, but on Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont pushed that date back to June 1. 

This post has been updated.

Lamont said the delay will give beauty salons and barbershops additional preparation time and will let Connecticut coordinate reopening for these businesses with neighboring Rhode Island. 

“I heard from a lot of the stylists. I heard from a lot of the folks that run the hair salons,” Lamont said during his Monday afternoon news briefing. “They said, ‘Give us a little more time.’”

“Look, I apologize, because I know some of you were all set and ready to go on May 20,” Lamont said.

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But as Connecticut Public Radio has reported, some stylists were concerned that May 20 was too aggressive. 

Lamont said stylists and salon owners told him they needed more time to acquire cleaning agents for their stores, line up day care for their workers and to get employees to feel comfortable coming back.

“They wanted an extra week or two,” Lamont said. “So we’ve said, June 1.”

In a statement late Monday, Senate Republican leader Len Fasano criticized the move to June 1, calling it a “policy decision based on input that should have been sought long before decisions were made.”

“Many salons and barbershop owners have spent thousands of dollars over the last few weeks getting ready for reopening. They’ve installed plexiglass, reconfigured their spaces, and purchased personal protective equipment -- all at a time when they don’t have cash readily available,” Fasano said. “Many have no income, they have no way to make a living, and now they are being told to wait again.”

Meanwhile, the state announced best practice guidelines for dental offices and also launched a small businesses reopening guide, which outlines employee training resources and physical layout guidelines for stores reopening in the coming days and weeks. 

The reopening handbook includes a list of vetted suppliers of personal protective equipment, said Glendowlyn Thames, deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“Whether it’s sanitizer, face shields, gowns, masks,” Thames said, “you can find Connecticut suppliers as well as suppliers outside of Connecticut as a good starting point.”

Lamont’s move got mixed reviews from stylists. Alison Valsamis didn’t want close-contact professionals like hair stylists to be part of phase one of the reopening. Valsamis, who owns a private studio in Shelton, started a Facebook group advocating for a delay. It now has thousands of followers.

“I have received hundreds and hundreds of messages and emails from stylists across the state of Connecticut that were very fearful of returning to work and also were being threatened with termination from their employers if they did not report to work on May 20,” Valsamis said. “The decision today to delay the opening has without a doubt brought a lot of peace to a lot of people who live in the state.”

Valsamis says before they can take customers again, businesses should be able to order 30 days’ worth of personal protective equipment at a time.

Valerie DeVito says she bought as much PPE as she could so her Darien hair salon could reopen on May 20.

“Trying to even get any of this stuff that you need for the reopening has been grueling,” she said. “You’re paying top dollar, expedited shipping, and everything else. Now, you’re behind the eight ball thousands more dollars than you already were.”

She’s frustrated with the state’s decision.

“I don’t understand how a day and a half before we’re supposed to open -- with all of the preparation and everything that we’ve done -- all of a sudden it’s not safe to open?” she said.

Lamont Says State Meeting Metrics For May 20 Reopening

Lamont said coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state have declined for around four weeks. On Monday, that number dropped by 17 to a total of 920 people hospitalized with COVID-19. 

An additional 41 people died from complications related to COVID-19, bringing the total number of COVID-19-associated deaths to 3,449.

The governor said the goal of increasing COVID-19 testing to 42,000 tests per week was also proceeding on pace, with the state reporting slightly fewer than 45,000 coronavirus tests performed in Connecticut over the last seven days. 

The state has said it’s been working to boost its testing numbers in recent days, prioritizing testing at prisons, nursing homes and other high-risk areas like densely populated city centers. 

Hospitals have also increased testing for medical professionals and other front-line caregivers.

But Deidre Gifford, the acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said one front-line group that will not be tested in the first wave of expanded COVID-19 testing is day care workers. 

“We have not seen large numbers of cases in day care centers of COVID,” Gifford said. “They do report to DPH and it’s been a very, very small number of cases that we have seen.”

“In our first phase of high-priority testing, day care workers are not specifically called out,” Gifford said. “But as we … continue to add to our testing capacity and our testing strategy, all types of front-line workers, we will begin to develop guidance and recommendations for.”

New Haven Clergy Urge Churches To Remain Closed, For Now

A group of New Haven clergy are urging churches to remain closed until certain criteria are met. 

“There’s much more work that needs to be done,” the Rev. Dr. Boise Kimber of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association said during a call Monday morning. “This is not the time.”

Kimber said reopening New Haven churches will depend on a number of factors, including a steady decline in COVID-19 cases and making sure every church has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.   

The issue of testing was also raised. Kimber said he was concerned that people who need to get tested for COVID-19 are not due to access issues, especially in the city’s predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods. Kimber said New Haven mayor Justin Elicker and Lamont should consider opening testing sites at some of the churches in those neighborhoods.

“You got Newhallville, you got West Hills, you got West Rock. Those places … are practically 60% or more minorities,” Kimber said. “You’re asking poor people who don’t have health care, who gotta catch a bus in order to get to some of these sites.”

New Haven officials have said taxi services to and from the city’s COVID-19 testing sites are available free of charge to residents who call 2-1-1 and make an appointment. 

Coronavirus testing is also free, regardless of insurance status, and residents without internet access may get help scheduling an appointment by calling the New Haven Health Department at 203-946-4949, according to the mayor’s office.

Kimber said churches in his association are suffering financially. He predicted some may have to close permanently without city, state or federal support. 

Catholic Churches Across Connecticut Weigh Reopening With Caution

As portions of the state begin reopening later this week, Catholic churches are considering their plans for reconvening public gatherings at Mass.

The Archdiocese of Hartford said Monday it has not decided when public Mass celebrations will resume, but Archbishop Leonard Blair has convened a group of five pastors to work on that decision “and how we can safely resume the public celebration of Mass in a way that minimizes risk for all involved,” said David Elliott, a spokesperson for the archdiocese.

“We are hopeful that these determinations will be finalized by Archbishop Blair this week, but given the complexity of the situation, it could very well be next week.”

The Diocese of Bridgeport said in a statement on its website that it will begin the outdoor public celebration of Mass beginning May 21.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Norwich said Monday afternoon that a decision on resuming public Mass there has not yet been made.

Bridgeport Working To Get Outdoor Dining Operational This Week

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said Monday city workers continue to streamline the process for restaurants to get outdoor dining up and running by Wednesday.  

The city will allow tables in parking lots and on sidewalks. He encouraged the public to report any business not following state guidelines. 

“If you see a business not following that, please let us know about it. We are not going to send a SWAT team in, but we will put them on point. People have got to be on point. You have got to step up and do the right thing here,” Ganim said.

Ali Warshavsky and Connecticut Public Radio’s Ray Hardman, Matt Dwyer and Frankie Graziano contributed to this report.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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