PLATTSBURGH — State guidance was disseminated Friday, advising hair salons and barbershops how to conduct business when reopening, but George Munson said the rulebook was met with mixed feelings. 

"They're happy to go back to work," the owner of Visual Changes, a salon on South Catherine Street in the City of Plattsburgh, said of the shop's 9 independent contractors.

"They just wish they would have known this stuff before, so they could have prepared." 


Though the professional services industry was readying for a Friday reopen under Phase 2 of New York Forward, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delayed the move late Thursday, calling for added expert opinions.

By Friday afternoon, though, the governor had re-cleared the North Country for the second phase of reopening. 


The back and forth caused confusion among stylists and barbers who, up until the retraction, were prepping to cut hair again. 

Munson, a now-retired stylist of more than four decades, said he was grateful his years cutting hair had ended before the COVID-19 crisis. 

"My heart goes out to every stylist, barber or anyone in the enhancement industry," Munson said. "It's not easy. It's supposed to be fun.

"Right now, it's hard to service the client, while keeping them safe." 


A Friday afternoon webinar, hosted by the North Country Chamber of Commerce, discussed the industry's reopen and the Visual Changes staff had tuned in. 

Munson thanked the upstate chamber and its speakers, adding that stylists had learned valuable information regarding state mandates.

Something they hadn't expected, though, was a protocol with language that seemingly required they be swabbed before picking up the shears.

"Responsible Parties (salon/barbershop owners) are strongly encouraged to ensure that employees performing services directly on or to customers (i.e. haircutting) have been tested for COVID-19 through a diagnostic test, prior to the employee performing such services," it reads.

"Employees shall be tested every 14 days, so long as the region in which the hair salon/barbershop is located remains in Phase Two." 


Munson said New York's stylists, unable to work since March, would have had plenty of time to schedule testings, had they known it was to be a state requirement. 

"They don't want their clients thinking they're not ready — they're more than ready," he said.

As of late Friday afternoon, the salon owner said many of his workers were calling doctor's offices to schedule appointments. 

Sue Matton, of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, received clarification from Clinton County later that evening and told The Press-Republican, "while the state is strongly encouraging testing before opening, (salons and barbershops) can open tomorrow without having been tested.

"They then need to get tested as soon as they can, and then every 14 days thereafter." 


When North Country residents head out for a haircut, they'll notice some changes at the salons, like wearing face masks and possible barriers between stations.

For each client, stylists would need to watch for COVID-19 symptoms, fully disinfect stations and use fresh capes, as well as log the client's full name and time at the salon.

"It's a lot of added work on the stylists," Munson said. "It's a lot of time away from doing hair."

Kathy Santor and her daughter Brittany Lafave of Shear Creations in Peru, were two of about 40 stylists that picked up masks, face shields and guidelines for reopening at Trinity Park in the city Friday afternoon.

Mayor Colin Read and Shannon Perrea of Runs With Scissors salon, handed out about 200 protective kits to hair stylists in three days this week.

"This really helps us know what we need to do to be able to reopen," Santor, who has owned her shop since 2012, said.

"We want to make sure our customers are safe."

Lafave was initially disappointed when they found out Phase 2 would not start Friday.

"We already were fully booked," she said.

Perrea said most stylists in the area were anxious to go back to work.

"We are a close-knit network and we share a lot of information with each other," she said.

"This has been very helpful not only for us professionals but for our clients too."


With clients unable to get cuts, colors and styles done in a few months, Munson said stylists across the industry would feel pressures to get everyone in as quickly as possible. 

"The pressure is on," he said. "They're going to be very, very busy." 

Email McKenzie Delisle:

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle

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