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B.C.'s road to recovery: Personal care sector to remain six feet from normal

From gyms to dental clinics, the ‘new normal’ will likely be continued social distancing
Laila Testini, owner of Crush Hair in Surrey, has stocked up on face masks, shields and cleaning products | Rob Kruyt

At some point, even Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry – who revealed she cut her own hair during the pandemic, after ordering hair salons and barber shops closed – is probably going to want to have a professional style her hair.

She may have to wait until the end of May, unless she decides hair salons and barbers can reopen sooner than that.

And like so many other British Columbians, Henry may also want to go to a dentist for a teeth cleaning, an optometrist to get her eyes checked or prescription update, and maybe work off some stress at the gym.

Those types of personal care services will likely reopen on a staggered basis, and none of them will be offered in a way that could be described as “normal,” say the businesses that are preparing for a green light – which is actually more of an orange light.

Going to the gym may involve having to make an appointment, not just dropping in, and members may not be allowed to change and shower after their workout.

Your haircut may be more expensive, and you may be expected to wash your own hair before you show up for your appointment, and wait outside until your turn comes, to limit the amount of time you are in the salon.

“Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order for our industry to remain closed is until the end of May,” said Greg Robins, executive director of the Beauty Council of Western Canada, which represents barbers, stylists, spas, cosmetologists and body waxers. “Now, she could shorten that or she could extend it.”

In order to plan for a phased reopening, the council has looked to other jurisdictions that are moving earlier on reopening and to those sectors, like grocery stores, that have managed to operate throughout the pandemic, for ideas on how to serve customers again, while maintaining enhanced health, safety and sanitary measures.

“There are simple things, like tape on the floor people to stay a certain distance apart, hand sanitizers available for customer use, possibly barriers between client and provider, and perhaps the mandatory use of face masks,” Robins said.

Laila Testini, owner of Crush Hair Co. in Surrey, said all of her 11 stylists have had to take an online sanitization course in preparation for reopening.

“I’ve ordered masks and face shields for all of our employees, and I’ve stocked up on all our cleaning products because I’m worried there’s going to be a run on those,” she said.

In some jurisdictions, a phased reopening will see hair salons and barbers allowed to reopen before other personal care services, like beauty spas and hair waxing salons.

Asked if that may be the case in B.C., Robins said: “I wish not, but I think yes.”

If you need dental work, expect a backlog, even when dentists are allowed to start performing non-emergency dental work, like fillings, crowns and cleanings.

Care Dyck, manager at Aurora Dental Clinic, expects a demand backlog to be exacerbated by expected limits on the number of dentists, assistants and patients in the clinic at a given time.

“If you normally have a full schedule, your full schedule now is maybe half the capacity that it was,” she said. “So there is going to be some backlog I think, for sure.”

The same may go for optometrists. Like dentists, they are currently allowed to deal only with emergencies, like eye infections.

Devin Almond, a partner at Nuvue Optometry in Kelowna, said optometrists had hoped for a phased reopening May 1, but now expect it in mid-May.

As for fitness centres, gym owners are brainstorming ways to reduce contact between members and staff.

Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness centres plan to add cleaning staff and cleaning stations and limit the number of members in the gym at any one time. Linden is hoping for a reopening by the end of May.

“We’re really in the ideas stage right now of just figuring out how we keep our members and staff as safe as possible,” Linden said. •

This story is part of a series on the next steps for B.C. businesses across a wide range of sectors as the province edges closer to the easing of COVID-19 safety measures. Check out all previous stories in this series, and stay tuned for further stories being published throughout this week.

Previous stories in the series:

B.C.’s road to recovery: Restaurant reopenings could start in May

B.C.'s road to recovery: Province’s fashion retailers face multiple barriers

B.C.'s road to recovery: Big energy projects await return to full power

B.C.’s road to recovery: Pandemic could usher in online era of property sales

B.C.'s road to recovery: Public confidence is key to B.C. tourism resurgence

B.C.’s road to recovery: Smaller crews, higher costs face post-pandemic film industry

B.C.’s road to recovery: Post-secondary schools focus on the fall

B.C.’s road to recovery: Governments peer anxiously at post-COVID-19 horizon

B.C.'s road to recovery: Stores envision phased retail reawakening