California Department of Public Health offers much-needed relief to personal care providers

July 21, 2020 | By DANIEL ORTNER

Barbers, stylists, and other personal care providers across California were given new hope today. Small businesses all across California were devastated by California Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 19, 2020, stay-at-home and shutdown order. No industry was harder hit than the personal services industry, as hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, and other personal care providers were among the last allowed to reopen.

Just as these businesses were beginning to get back on their feet, the governor announced last week that in response to the increasing rate of COVID-19 infections, personal care services in 30 at-risk counties would be required to stop offering a variety of indoor services. This was devastating news for personal care providers who had already endured an extensive shutdown.

But there appeared to be a small silver lining. Like so many other businesses, personal care services could provide some of their services outdoors, so long as they could do so cleanly and hygienically. For instance, a barber could set up a tent and offer haircuts outside to maintain some income while indoor services remained off limits.

Unfortunately, the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology announced that under state licensing requirements, personal care providers could not offer any services outdoors. Any personal care provider who provided outdoor haircuts or styling could face a fine, the loss of a license, or even a criminal misdemeanor conviction.

On July 16, Pacific Legal Foundation sent a letter to Gov. Newsom and the board urging the board to change its mind or the governor to issue an order overruling the board and provide needed relief for personal care services. My op-ed with Anastasia Boden appeared in the Orange County Register and was further published in several other California newspapers. Many other small businesses and community groups spoke up as well.

On July 20, the California Department of Public Health issued new guidance that allows expanded personal care services to be provided outdoors. The new order applies to and allows these industries to get back to work right away.

For these businesses, this order is not perfect. Because they are already subjected to high safety and sanitation standards, these businesses can operate safely indoors, and hopefully the governor will soon allow them to open up in full. But for the entrepreneur struggling to survive, this order at least provides a chance and a reason for hope.

PLF will continue to fight on behalf of those harmed by the shutdown and will continue to urge states to respect individual liberty, economic freedom, and the separation of powers even in the midst of a pandemic.