As we slide into the end of March 2021, and a third wave of COVID 19, many Ontarians remain trapped in a surreal existence reminiscent of the film Groundhog Day where weekend, weekday and holiday are all identical. If you are amongst the thousands of beauty professionals in Toronto, formerly working in hair salons, barbershops, nail salons etc., the unfair, and inexplicable closures singling out our industry is ongoing. Our Groundhog Days continue with no end in sight.
Last week, in spite of new COVID variants on the rise, the province lifted many communities into the red zone, which, for instance, permits indoor dining of up to 50 occupants. Taking your mask off to eat and drink is clearly a much riskier activity than personal care settings, where masks are worn during services and social distancing and all other safety protocols are followed without question. A study carried out by the Canadian Government in November of 2020 concluded that personal care settings accounted for 34 outbreaks, 319 cases and O deaths IN ALL OF CANADA. The transmission rate for our sector thus is 0.001%, clearly not an area of concern, yet we have been in lockdown since November 25th, 2020 – one of the longest closures in the North America.
I have owned worldSALON located in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood of downtown Toronto for thirty-one years. Since March last year, we have spent thousands of dollars to purchase equipment and put in place protocols to guarantee the safety of staff and clients. In the period that we were allowed to open, in 22 weeks with 6 staff members, we saw 754 clients carrying out 2885 visits with 0 COVID cases. Many salons used social media accounts to post their safety records, displaying the hashtag #ShowYourStatsTO, all to prove that there is no spread in personal care settings.
While I realize that we are not essential workers in the same sense that medical staff, food supply chain and infrastructure maintenance workers are, the emotional and mental health support that we bring to the community is undeniable, especially now, a year into a global pandemic. As beauty professionals, we build personal bonds and friendships with our clients, and are nourished by our ability to make patrons feel better and more beautiful; in my case, this includes families now spanning three generations. This conduit of love and support has been closed off completely for 17 weeks unnecessarily, resulting in the deterioration of health and well-being for providers, families, friends – our patrons.
With COVID 19, health and government officials are dealing with a crisis that changes daily; many layers conflicting and intersecting in dangerous ways. We appreciate the challenges and respect the work that is being carried out every day. The safety of the community at large is of utmost importance, and with the vaccines now being administered, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is essential that Dr. Eileen da Villa, Mayor John Tory, Provincial Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Premier Doug Ford reconsider reopening salons and other personal care settings as soon as possible. The statistics show that our businesses are safe. We are assets to the community and until now, have been treated with disdain.