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Businesses hoping to reopen join run on PPE

Matt Vasilogambros, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

Nikia Londy's employees are afraid to come back to work.

The owner of Intriguing Hair, a salon in Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood, thought her stylists would be eager to return. But they don't feel safe, she said.

Like other states, Massachusetts has released standards businesses must follow to reopen after two months of quarantine. Among the dozens of requirements, every employee at salons and barbershops must wear face masks and eye protection. Faced with choosing vendors despite knowing little about the equipment, Londy is struggling to procure this safety gear before reopening Monday.

"I don't even know where to get that," she said.

As every state gradually lifts coronavirus restrictions, employers are scrambling to get enough protective equipment to create a safe work environment. Buying safety equipment, however, has created additional challenges for businessowners, who may be unfamiliar with vendors and potential scammers.

Adding to that concern, a recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that nearly six in 10 Americans fear exposing their households to the novel coronavirus upon returning to work. Some states, such as Connecticut and Maine, have delayed reopening some businesses out of fear it might be too soon and dangerous.

 

Maine has allowed barbershops and hair salons to reopen across the state, requiring face masks and spread-out chairs. But that doesn't mean stylists were eager to get back to work.

Julia Perry, a Brunswick, Maine-based cosmetologist, has been frustrated with that state's plan to reopen. It is too soon, she said. It puts her health and the health of her clients at risk. She is still waiting to receive an order of surgical masks.

She has resisted beginning her services thus far. But if she doesn't start soon, she fears she will lose many of her 250 clients. "It's a real slap in the face," she said. "I don't think the state is taking us seriously. There's not enough testing. We feel like guinea pigs."

Given these hurdles, some states, counties and nonprofits have launched efforts to help businesses find and buy protective equipment.

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