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New Orleans Barber Isn't Ready To Return To Shop Despite His State's Reopening


Each week for the past few months, we've heard from Americans about how the pandemic has changed their lives. Today, we check back with Jason Jones. He's a barber in New Orleans. He owns a shop there. And back in March, he grappled with the possibility of a shutdown.


JASON JONES: My income is solely this barbershop. Unfortunately, I do not have a backup plan. I'm just hoping that things turn around quickly.

SIMON: Of course, the state did shut down, and with it, his barbershop. He's relied on unemployment benefits to support his family.

Louisiana is now in phase two of its reopening plan, which allows barbershops to operate at 50% capacity. Jason Jones says he wants to go back to work, but...

JONES: I have not reopened my shop yet.

SIMON: He says state guidelines about how to reopen don't give him the kind of details he and his barbers need to return to work with safety for them and their customers.

JONES: Those guidelines leave a lot of questions unanswered. You know, when you say that everyone needs to wear a mask or a cloth covering, I mean, are you saying that someone can wear a bandana around their face while they're giving services? Is that really protecting them as much as someone who is wearing some type of respirator? Should we be wearing some type of respirator - or maybe we shouldn't.


JONES: Some of the other issues were, like, even just getting certain sanitation supplies. I was noticing a lot of the things that they're requiring are very hard to get. It's very expensive, and the state is not providing any type of funding for that. I'm doing what a lot of other businesses are doing. We're going into debt to be able to cover these costs.


JONES: I realized that I needed to start talking to other people in the industry about what was going on. It kind of started out with, like, one person calling me here, and I called another person and asked them what they were doing. And we kind of, like, had a lot of the same concerns. Just this week, we had a Zoom call. Eight of us got together, and we talked about some of the things that we think need to be addressed and, also, just general ideas of, like, you might not be able to find Barbicide, but check this website out. They have this other stuff called Multi-Cide that will work just as well, and they have it in stock.


JONES: I never really participated so much in interacting with people in the industry as much, and I think this has kind of helped me break out of my shell a little bit and actually meet people that do the same thing I do and care enough about our safety.


JONES: We're just now at the beginning stages of starting to organize, and it's a very small group, but it seems to get bigger and bigger. The next step is probably getting a petition together. What we're looking to see the state do is more education about COVID-19 and how it relates to our industry in the same way that we've received education about lice and other communicable diseases. We also want to see some education about our PPE to protect us and the general public. Eventually, we'll all be out there, and we need to start working to have these standards set in place. So if nobody else is doing it, we're going to try.


SIMON: That's Jason Jones, a barber in New Orleans. He hopes to be back behind the chair, clippers in hand, by the end of this month.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.