Arkansas stylists, salon owners push for vaccine priority

Coronavirus

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As Arkansas moves towards Phase 1-B of COVID-19 vaccinations, many across the state are still wondering when it will be their turn.

Workers in the service industry such as hairdressers, staff at nail salons and massage therapists are not included in the Arkansas Department of Health’s tiered vaccine plans, and while many agree that their jobs aren’t considered “essential”, they’re hoping for some priority since they’re put at risk every day.

Veronica Wirges is the owner of V-Star Salon in North Little Rock, a shop specializing in vivid hair color and hair transformations. For her, closed doors are the last thing she can afford as she fights to keep her salon afloat amid a very challenging pandemic.

“We’re part of the economy fully functioning,” she said about salons and hair shops, “and even though we’re not shut down, we’re shutting ourselves down.”

Wirges made drastic changes to her workplace in order to keep her and her clients safe, increasing airflow and making room for safe distancing.

“I did a massive remodel focused on ventilation,” she explained, but added the renovations and safety precautions already in place aren’t the most that can be done in terms of safety, arguing that the vaccine is her best protection.

The state doesn’t consider salons essential, instead writing them off as luxury services. But Wirges’s concern is that stylists haven’t been given any priority for the vaccine. Instead, they’ll have to wait with the general public when their work puts them only a foot away from clients.

“Sometimes I have one client for my entire day, that’s 8 hours about a foot away from them for most of the time,” she said.

Right now, there are several petitions going around, pushing the state to better outline its next tier of priority groups, and possibly include stylists and salon owners in 1-C or Phase 2. In one day, one such petition netted over 300 signatures.

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