As Long Island entered phase two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's NY Forward economic reopening plan Wednesday, hair salons and barbershops were back in business. People can finally get those haircuts they've been hoping for — but may still have to wait, because the demand makes appointments somewhat hard to come by.
"I'm super excited because I can only be out of work so long without failing," Elaine Hayes, owner of the Special Effects salon in East Hampton, said on Tuesday. "I know that people are eager to get back to work and there will be a lot of changes we'll have to make, but I think we're ready for it and we can handle it."
In addition to hair salons and barbershops, phase two allows several more industries to resume operating: commercial building management, real estate, and other professional offices; in-store retail; car dealerships doing sales, leasing, and rentals, and outdoor dining, covered elsewhere in today's Star. Still closed to customers are movie theaters, gyms and fitness studios, malls, large event venues, amusement parks and family attractions, video gaming and casino facilities, and indoor dining at restaurants.
But phase two is a welcome change, many people said this week.
"It is another great indication of the incredible progress that we have made since we reached the peak of this crisis, this global pandemic," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday. "It's really a great thing that we are moving forward in a positive way. Many types of economic activities are coming online . . . and it is needed. We need to get people back to work, we need to get our economy moving. I can tell you I haven't seen so many people this excited about the prospect of getting a haircut . . . including me."
Ms. Hayes couldn't even count the number of appointments she has booked over the next few days, but there will be a limited number of people in the salon at one time and their temperatures will be taken with a touchless thermometer before they sit down, she said. Their appointment times will be spaced out more, and there will be fewer stylists working, each with two stations so that one can be thoroughly cleaned while the other is in use. Ms. Hayes said one staff member will be dedicated to sanitizing and the bathroom has been locked, so each time the key is used, that staff member will know it needs cleaning. She said they have always used face masks for certain services, like hair coloring, but that the use of personal protective equipment will increase.
For those who are still not comfortable being out in public, such as the elderly or immune-compromised clients, Special Effects is making certain accommodations for appointments before or after its normal business hours.
"I think we've got a pretty good plan. . . . We're really serious about it," said Ms. Hayes, who has been in business 31 years. "Everybody seems very eager to get back to work and the customers are so excited to get their locks cut. And of course, they've had enough gray hair showing. Me, too."
Businesses had to first affirm their phase two reopening plans and procedures to local municipalities. Two weeks into the economic reopening, Mr. Bellone said the Covid-19 metrics are still looking good. The number of people hospitalized across the county stood at 155 on Tuesday afternoon, a number that has been consistently decreasing. Hospital capacity was at 63 percent and intensive care unit capacity was at 53 percent; those numbers must not go higher than 70 percent.
Suffolk's total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases reached 40,426 and there were an additional 15,856 people whose antibody tests indicated they had also had the virus. The death toll increased by four on Tuesday, up to 1,939 people.
The county has not seen a spike in cases even as local and regional protests over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis continue to bring large numbers of people together, but will be watching numbers in the coming days to see what if any impact those gatherings have had on the spread of the virus.
"Through phase one, we're on our final day, and what we have seen is a continued decline in our numbers," Mr. Bellone said on Tuesday. "That is great news. It's why we move into phase two now with confidence."
At the Wharf Shop, a popular toy and gift shop in Sag Harbor, there is a sense of cautious optimism over the next phase of business. Gwen Waddington, its co-owner, said they have put up a Plexiglas barrier at the cash register, are requiring customers to use hand sanitizer upon entering the store, and are limiting the number of customers based on the size of the groups and families who come in to shop. There are other precautions in place, too.
"We are very excited about having the store open again," she said. "Other retail stores are also very anxious to be open. There are slim margins that we operate on, and we all count on those two months — really eight weeks — of a high season for us in order to diffuse the losses for the rest of the year."