LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas hair salons and barbershops closed because of the coronavirus pandemic can reopen next week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday as he proposed putting $85 million more into a program to help businesses comply with new safety rules
Hutchinson said the businesses can reopen Wednesday but with new rules to curb the virus, including limits on how many people can be inside and screening of customers and staff. The decision also allows tattoo shops and massage therapists to reopen.
“With Mother’s Day approaching, we all want a haircut or some type of treatment,” Hutchinson said. “And professionals also want to safely return to the business they love and enjoy.”
The announcement is the latest in a series of steps by the Republican governor to roll back coronavirus restrictions. Hutchinson this week also announced plans to allow restaurant dining rooms and gyms to reopen in coming days.
The new restrictions prohibit walk-in appointments. Staff will be required to wear masks and gloves, and customers to wear gloves as services permit.
Tyler McAdoo, a barber in Camden, said he was ready to resume seeing customers on Wednesday.
“My phone has been blowing up. They are ready,” McAdoo said. “They’re desperate to get a haircut. They don’t trust their spouses to cut it.”
But Sunshine Broder, a hair stylist in Fayetteville, said she didn’t believe reopening was worth the health risk, along with the added limits her business would face.
“At this time, it would be a loss for us and it just does nothing but put people at risk,” she said.
Arkansas is among a handful of states that didn’t issue a broad stay-at-home order, but it has had other restrictions in place. Hutchinson on Monday plans to announce whether the state will lift restrictions on churches and other large venues.
Health officials announced Friday the state has at least 3,321 coronavirus cases, an increase over the 3,255 reported Thursday. The number of infections is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The number of deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, increased from 61 to 64.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
A state panel on Friday gave initial approval to Hutchinson’s proposal to put another $85 million in federal coronavirus aid into a program to help businesses pay for protective equipment, disinfectant and other expenses. The state stopped taking applications for the program less than an hour after it launched Wednesday after more than $38 million worth of requests came in, surpassing the $15 million initially proposed.
Hutchinson on Thursday said the state had prematurely accepted applications before lawmakers approved the program. Legislators on Friday expressed skepticism about the amount of money sought for the program, given questions about the rushed way it was launched.
“I just don’t think there’s any reason to approve this big amount immediately,” said Sen. Will Bond, who instead proposed putting an additional $35 million in the program.
Hutchinson said the increased funding proposal in response to suggestions from lawmakers and said he’ll work with them on the proposal.
“It’s up to the Legislature now as to whether they want to give the appropriation to accomplish that or not, or at what level,” Hutchinson said.