North Carolina senator asks Cooper to let counties reopen barbershops

Published 9:12 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2020

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One of North Carolina’s most powerful Republican elected officials has called on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to give county governments the ability to reopen barbershops and hair salons now.

Senate leader Phil Berger said on Wednesday that most Southeastern states have allowed these personal service businesses to reopen in some capacity. They are mostly run by small business owners who have struggled to receive unemployment benefits and need work so they and their employees can earn a living, Berger said in a news release.

Hair salons and barbershops remain closed in the first part of Cooper’s three-phase plan that began May 8 to ease out of the state’s stay-at-home order, along with gyms, movie theaters and tattoo parlors.

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“The majority of states in our region and the country have reviewed the science, facts and data and reached a different conclusion than Gov. Cooper’s,” Berger said. He suggested counties would mandate salons and barbershops accept reservations only and require employees and customers to wear masks.

In a news conference later Wednesday, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen acknowledged the frustration with the closings but said haircuts and salon services are close person-to-person indoor activities that are at higher risk for spreading the virus.

The second phase, when such personal services would resume, could begin as soon as May 22. Cooper hasn’t been too keen on setting rules by region, saying the virus doesn’t stop at county boundaries. Cohen said she and Cooper would on Thursday publicly discuss the latest data that’s being analyzed to make decisions.

Berger’s call is the latest recent criticism from Republican officials and conservative activists about Cooper’s decisions to loosen stay-at-home restrictions.