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Berkeley Announces New COVID-19 Reopening Regulations

In the coming weeks, many Berkeley businesses will be opening back up, including barber shops, salons, and pools. On September 2, the City of Berkeley ordered the continuation of its reopening plan, which allows select businesses to open services, outdoor and some indoor. 

The previous order made progress by allowing salons, barbershops, pools, live-streamed concerts, and personal care services to reopen outside, effective August 28. The newest order allows hair salons to book indoor appointments, restaurants to offer outdoor dining, and outdoor museums, galleries, and gardens to open to the public, effective September 4. 

However, these new allowances will not be without restrictions. All establishments opening to the public will require precise limits on the amount of customers, options for social distancing, sanitation, and, for some businesses, mandatory appointments. 

Hair salons are finally able to open after six months of closure, but with new social distancing measures. “I think we’re minimizing risk in a situation that is inherently risky,” said Heidi Schweiker, a hair stylist at Ketér salon in Berkeley. “We’re doing what we can to keep the risk low,” she explained.  

Ketér is lowering the number of stylists and customers inside the salon, using partitions between customers, and requiring temperature checks and verbal screenings. 

Personal care services, such as massage, nails, and waxing, are open for outdoor appointments. All parties must wear masks during appointments, so facial procedures are prohibited. Ruby Ceja, Berkeley High School (BHS) senior, went to La Belle nail salon in El Cerrito. She said the restrictions for customers helped keep the outdoor salon safe. Appointments were required, so only a few people were on the premises at a time.  

This reopening order is in line with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to start the next phase of reopening, after a state-wide economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state devised a new method for approving which businesses can open in each county. This system labels the level of severity of COVID-19 for counties based on daily cases per 100 thousand people and percentage of positive test results. Alameda County is marked at the highest risk level, labeled as “widespread,” along with the majority of the Bay Area and California. Nonetheless, many counties, including Alameda, are moving towards reopening.

Westbrae Biergarten is one restaurant in Berkeley that has opened its outdoor seating to customers.

Westbrae Biergarten is one restaurant in Berkeley that has opened its outdoor seating to customers.

This isn’t the first time Governor Newsom has tried to reopen businesses in California. In early May, he announced commencement of the second phase of reopening, which involved opening low-risk businesses and public spaces in most of California, excluding the Bay Area. Berkeley ordered its own second phase of reopening a few weeks later, allowing curbside-pickup and manufacturing businesses to reopen. Amidst the relaxation of social distancing rules, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests occurred across the state. Cases spiked in California in late June, administering revocation of the reopening orders.  

With a new reopening order in place, there is concern among citizens about including businesses deemed nonessential. Although Ceja took a risk and got a manicure, she doesn’t think reopening salons is necessary. She said nail salons aren’t really important, and reopening salons poses a risk to the Berkeley community. 

However, Schweiker thinks it is time to take those risks, as long as precautions for social distancing are taken. “I feel like a lot of people were starting to think ‘Why are we allowed to congregate close to each other in other stores but not in salons?’ So if other things are opening up, why not salons?” she inquired. Schweiker said that the salon industry is held to a higher standard of safety than other businesses that were allowed to open earlier.  

Even without salons open, many people were finding other ways to get haircuts, namely by hiring stylists to come to backyards. Schweiker explained that when people find ways to bypass social distancing rules, the City of Berkeley loses control of regulation around those rules. She believes that reopening salons is a safer alternative.  

The full list of businesses and events allowed to reopen while maintaining social distance guidelines includes swimming pools (on September 14), outdoor fitness classes, religious and cultural gatherings, shopping centers, college libraries, and many others.

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