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Barbers, salons in orange zones petition NYS to reopen

Wade Davis in his barbershop.

Wade Davis has been a barber for about three decades. He said that most barber shops were walk-up businesses until this spring, when COVID-19 precautions forced them to close.

Davis said his business, Wade and Me, slowly recovered after reopening in the summer and only took customers by appointment. A couple of days before Thanksgiving, though, he was dealt a new blow: His shop on Culver Road was in a state-designated orange zone, where COVID-19 cases are rising, and would have to shut its doors again.

Davis said this time, it's even worse; the holiday season is very profitable for barbers and salons.

“Nobody’s giving us any direction,” said Davis. “We don’t have the unemployment thing in place, we don’t have the other supports that were in place the last time they shut us down, they’re just like, 'You gotta close.' ”

That’s one reason why Davis signed a petition started by Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot, who also runs New Creations Unisex Shop on Jefferson Avenue.

The petition and an accompanying letter were sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday. The letter argues that barbers and salons were already limiting capacity and made efforts to follow numerous state mandates.

With social distancing, mandatory masks for all,  shields for barber and scheduling time to disinfect each space, Lightfoot argues there’s no reason these businesses should have to stay closed. The letter said that the decision isn't based on data citing a public statement from Monroe County Health Commissioner Michael Mendoza who said the private gatherings are the primary cause of the current COVID-19 spike.

If safety is the motivator for this rule, Lightfoot is urging Albany to reconsider.

“You gave them 24 hours notice,” said Lightfoot. "The day before Thanksgiving, with no guidance, that’s just unacceptable to me.”

Lightfoot said he’s had conversations with several state officials, including Vincent Esposito from the Empire State Development Corp. He’s hopeful his letter will reach the governor’s desk. He’s also looking for more support for small businesses.

“Many of these businesses are cash businesses. They work from day to day, week to week, and they can’t afford to go two or three weeks without providing income or taking care of clients,” Lightfoot said.

These concerns are also affecting salons, like the ones owned by Kym Reed. Reed operated World Hair in the Park Avenue neighborhood for three decades. She had to close it earlier this year because of the impact of COVID-19.

Reed also owns Blue Marble Hair Parlour on East Avenue. She said many people in her line of business feel singled out. Reed is concerned whether this business will make it through the week.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Reed. “I’ve never in my lifetime been told I can’t go to work. So I feel like we’ve been kind of singled out.

“I understand that the COVID numbers are going up,” Reed continued, “but I don’t think that we’re the problem. I don't think that we’re a vector of the viral spread that’s happening.”

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