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Hair salons can reopen but not malls and shops under new L.A. County plan

Nader Salameh, left, and his son Gavyn from Lawndale, get their hair cut.
Nader Salameh, left, and son Gavyn get their hair cut by Anthony Ho, left, and Christian Mikhail in the parking lot of Press Box Barber Shop in Lawndale.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County officials announced an updated reopening plan Wednesday, keeping shopping malls shuttered while allowing barbershops and hair salons to operate indoors again under certain restrictions.

The new approach comes amid a generally improving pandemic picture that allowed Gov. Gavin Newsom last week to issue new guidelines allowing counties — no matter their COVID-19 status — to reopen some businesses.

County officials, balancing public health concerns versus business interests in a region where unemployment has reached 20%, opted to take a cautious approach.

Hair salons and barbershops will be allowed to operate indoors at 25% capacity if they practice social distancing, and employees wear masks and follow other health-related mandates.

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The news that the county wasn’t allowing shopping malls to reopen disappointed business owners and employees who’ve struggled these past few months with enormous financial uncertainty.

At the Beverly Center, which contains almost 1 million square feet of retail space, mall officials expressed frustration with the county’s decision, saying other cities like Denver, Salt Lake City and Miami have allowed malls to reopen. Beverly Center, when opened, will implement health and safety protocols and use an advanced air filtration system recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a mall spokesperson.

“We are anxious to fully reopen so we can put a considerable number of people back to work,” said Maria Mainville, director of strategic communications at Taubman, which owns the Beverly Center and operates several other shopping centers across the country. “We have fully reopened our shopping centers without incident in every other market where we have operations. We understand that these are unprecedented times, but we would simply like an even playing field.”

Barbershop and salon owners welcomed the reopening news, but said the 25% capacity rule was still too strict.

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“Landlords won’t be reducing their leases by 75%,” said Fred Jones, the legal counsel for the Professional Beauty Federation of California.

L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said the decision to reopen hair salons and barbershops was based on the county’s data trends, along with what the county has learned during previous reopenings. He did not provide specific details on why restrictions for malls were not lifted.

“The virus is widespread in our community,” Davis said. “The improvements we see do not mean victory. It is still easy to transmit, and often people who are contagious don’t have symptoms.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis offered more words of caution for residents, especially those considering celebrating the Labor Day weekend without regard for the virus. “We can easily be knocked off that path of recovery if we see another surge in cases after the holiday week, which is was what happened after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July,” she said.

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Officials also announced some changes to school protocols. Beginning Sept. 14, K-12 schools can offer in-school services for small groups of students with individualized education plans, students requiring instruction for English as a second language and students needing other specialized in-school services. Schools can offer services to these students as long as they fully implement the county’s reopening protocols.

“This will get children who are in most need of in-person learning back into the classroom,” Davis said.

In San Francisco, plans announced Tuesday by Mayor London Breed and Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax also reflect a cautious approach.

The city reopened outdoor pools, indoor malls, outdoor hair salons and barbershops and outdoor personal services with some restrictions on Monday. But indoor operations at barbershops and hair salons may not reopen until late September. Nail salons may reopen for indoor services, with modifications at that point, as well as indoor church services, with 25% of a building’s capacity for a maximum of 25 people.

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The state has placed L.A. County, along with 37 other counties, on Tier 1 of its reopening plan for having widespread risk of the virus. The county has recorded more than 244,000 cases and almost 5,900 deaths. In recent weeks, those numbers have declined and stabilized, but August stands as the county’s deadliest month since the pandemic hit.

Times staff writers Maura Dolan and Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.


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