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Businesses looking for clarification on re-opening

Salon owner Elvera wiping down surfaces in her salon. Photo courtesy KSL-TV

LAYTON – As businesses in Utah continue to open, business owners have questions about how to open safely. 

Sam Reese and his wife Elvera own a hair and nail salon in Layton. They have plenty of appointments on the books, but they are worried about keeping customers safe. 

They are doing what they can by wiping everything down and taking magazines out of the waiting area. Sam Reese told Matt Gephardt of  KSL-TV, “when it comes to hair and nails those are extremely important things for folks, I mean, it’s just the way you feel about yourself.” 

They also require everyone that comes into their salon to wear a mask. 

But, the dual owners still have some questions on the most effective way to protect consumers. 

Questions continue to pile

The Reeses have sought out guidance from the state’s Utah Leads Together 2.0 plan as well as the Davis County Health Department, but they say both sources leave information out that would give them answers they need. 

A few of these questions are what temperature would require an employee to be sent home? And do customers need to wear masks while they are getting their hair done? 

“When it comes to this it’s so important, we want specifics,” said Sam. “We talked to everyone we could, and we kept getting conflicting information as to what we should do.”

Sam and Elvera had only four days from the announcement to the day they were allowed to reopen. This left them scrambling to get regulations right. 

Looking for answers

Davis County Director of Health Brian Hatch sympathized with the Reeses. “As guidelines come, there’s a lot of questions that are still trying to be answered,” said Hatch.  

“If there was a frustration that I would characterize, it’s just that we don’t have enough time to facilitate information and get it out to the right people in a timely manner,” said Hatch. “Ideally, we’d have a couple of weeks of heads up, and then we could get information.” 

Hatch goes on to say that they normally don’t regulate businesses such as salons. They don’t even have contact information for these businesses, making access to the latest information really tough. 

Consequences if you don’t get it right

All 13 health departments in Utah say they want to educate business owners. Health departments state citations or closures would only come if a business refused to comply with safety measures. 

Southeast Utah Health Department said in an email to KSL TV’s Matt Gephardt they “always strive to first educate about the intent of rules and regulations and will continue that philosophy. If a business is unwilling to become compliant, they will be subject to citation or closure.”

New program intended to help business owners

Employees from other health departments are being retrained to work as ‘Health Ambassadors.’ The intent is to help answer some of the questions. 

“We’re asking them to visit licensed establishments that are under the purview of the health department with the sole intention to provide that information,” said Dorothy Adams with the Salt Lake County Health Department. 

Adams goes on to say it’s intended to be a personal touch to inform businesses of the state and local guidelines. 

Ambassadors cannot close businesses, do inspections, or go into a restaurant’s kitchen. 

Concerns about keeping the environment welcoming to customers

Matt Lake, a restaurant owner, said it can be uncomfortable following regulations. “I confront you as a guest, and you say, ‘well I just have allergies.’ But I don’t know that. I don’t know you. I have to ask you to leave,” said Lake.

“That’s not hospitality. It’s not what we do.”

Lake has concerns about the lack of transparency in the guidelines and his role to navigate the mandates. For that reason he is opting to keep his restaurant, Alamexo, closed to dine-in services.