TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Coronavirus hair can soon be professionally snipped.
Gov. Ron DeSantis posted a video Friday featuring Orlando barbershop owner John Henry, who announced that starting Monday, barbershops, hair salons and nail salons will be allowed to reopen in most of the state after being shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are ready to get back to work and make some money,” Henry, who operates J Henry’s Barber Shop, said in the video. “But getting back to work, we want to be safe to continue to wear gloves, wear masks, bookmark appointments and continue to keep the community safe. I know everyone is happy to come out and support the barbershop, and we want to continue to keep one thing in mind, safety is always first.”
The video was posted shortly after DeSantis said Palm Beach County will be included Monday in the first phase of the state’s economic reopening. That will leave only coronavirus hotspots Miami-Dade and Broward counties out of the first phase.
Henry was among a number of barbers and cosmetologists who sat down with DeSantis last Saturday to push for their professions to be included in the reopening. They highlighted advanced cleaning protocols for work stations and tools, along with in-store physical distancing requirements for customers.
DeSantis said at the time more review was needed about safety standards for people who have direct contact with customers.
But during an appearance Friday morning in Jacksonville, DeSantis said industry proposals had been looked at by the state Department of Health and physicians and were “going in a really good direction.”
“Look, I practically have a mullet. So, I haven't had a haircut in a long time,” DeSantis said during the appearance. “But you know, we just want to make sure we're going in a safe, smart step-by-step approach. We're being very judicious on everything we're doing. But I absolutely see a path. And I think if people watch out, I think that you'll be hearing something on that very soon.”
After forcing businesses to shut down or dramatically scale back operations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, DeSantis last week announced the first phase of a reopening effort that included allowing restaurants and retail stores to serve customers with limited capacity. The first phase took effect Monday for all but Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
While announcing Friday that he would include Palm Beach County, DeSantis said he would also like to move Miami-Dade and Broward into phase one, possibly starting May 18, as they’ve also had “good trends” in efforts to control the virus.
“I think that there was a sense that they needed a little more time to be ready to reopen,” DeSantis said during an appearance at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. “And I think that that's fine. We want them to do it in a way that it's going to be successful. It's going to be smart. It'll be step by step. But we really want people to have confidence in what's going on.”
DeSantis said Palm Beach County’s percentage of positive cases was moving closer to Orange, Hillsborough and Duval counties, and away from Miami-Dade and Broward.
The first phase allows retail outlets and restaurants to operate with indoor capacity at 25 percent. The first phase also lets medical facilities again provide elective surgeries.
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, a former state legislator, called phase one “a large step for this community. It’s a large step for recovering our economy.”
“It's not a surprise to me in any way that the members of this community have shown a positivity rate much lower than that to our neighbors to the south,” Kerner added. “That's not because Broward, Miami-Dade, is doing anything wrong, but there's certainly a strong correlation statistically between urban populations and the positivity rate. We enjoy a smaller population here in Palm Beach County than our neighbors to the south. And our efforts have borne that out that our positivity rate reflects the true commitment that we have to social distancing in this new world.”
But U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., expressed concerns about the plan to reopen Palm Beach County, which has had 3,615 coronavirus cases. Deutch wrote a letter to physician Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, and asked for her position on the county’s readiness to reopen.
“I am committed to meeting the economic challenges of this crisis, and I want to reopen our economy and society as soon as possible,” Deutch, who represents part of the county, wrote. “But unless we have the public health tools and strategies in place to keep Floridians safe, I am deeply concerned about the risk of renewed outbreaks that will cost more Palm Beach County residents their lives and only deepen the economic pain endured by workers and business owners.”
Also, state Sen. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, called the county reopening decision “troubling,” saying there have been 482 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the county since Monday.
“This growing increase shows that Palm Beach County has not yet succeeded in flattening the curve. At best, the county is in a high plateau,” Berman said in a prepared statement.
Palm Beach County commissioners had already agreed to allow limited recreational activities in the county, including golf, boating, tennis and the use of public parks, and have agreed to reopen beaches on May 18.
DeSantis has not set a timeline for the second and third phases of the reopening plan, which are expected to allow businesses such as movie theaters, gyms and tattoo parlors to reopen and eventually allow people to visit hospital patients and long-term care facilities.
The governor also said Friday his office is working on a proposal for President Donald Trump to try to prevent international air travelers from bringing the virus into the state. DeSantis earlier directed travelers from virus hotspots New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana to self-quarantine if they came to Florida.
“You look at a Brazil or some of these places in South America, if they have the epidemic on the upswing there, and people are coming into Florida, they could be introducing that. That should not be a risk that is placed on Floridians,” DeSantis said. “That's something that the airlines need to work out on the front end. So, we're working on how that would make sense.”
Last week while DeSantis was at the White House, Trump suggested Florida could be “cutting off” travel from Brazil.
DeSantis replied “not necessarily” about Florida imposing a travel ban from the South American country, which has seen a spike in cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
But DeSantis said airlines should be required to test passengers before they board international flights to keep people from bringing new cases to Florida.
“Maybe some of these airlines, it should be on them to check before they're getting on and coming to this country,” DeSantis said during the April 28 White House appearance. “I mean, you've seen what happened with the China flight restrictions that kept a lot of people from seeding the West Coast.”