Barbershops and hair salons in Arkansas can reopen by next Wednesday as the state continues to ease restrictions on businesses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement from Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday came as a total of 3,321 people had tested positive for the virus in the state, while 64 people have died from COVID-19.
Speaking with reporters at a daily briefing, Hutchinson said other cosmetology-related businesses can reopen on May 6.
"And these lifting of restrictions apply to barber, cosmetology, massage therapy, body art and medical spa services; all one-on-one engagement, and that's the reason of course that we put the restrictions on to begin with," Hutchinson said.
Under the guidelines set by the Arkansas Department of Health, smaller facilities will be limited to 10 customers at a time, or no more than 30% of workspaces in operation at once for larger businesses. Patrons and staff will be required to wear facemasks, and customers are encouraged to wait for appointments outside.
Patrons will be required to have an appointment and have their names and contact information recorded to assist in potential contact tracing investigations. Cosmetology schools will also remain closed until further notice.
The number of deaths due to COVID-19 has increased by three with 66 additional coronavirus cases added since Thursday. Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said five of the new cases were from the Federal Correctional Institution, Forrest City where 135 inmates have tested positive for the virus.
Smith said a little over one-third of the 64 people to die from COVID-19 were residents of nursing homes. The number of people hospitalized with the disease in Arkansas was unchanged Friday at 95.
With restrictions on gyms and restaurants also set to be lifted in the next two weeks, Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said workers who do not feel comfortable returning to work cannot continue to receive unemployment benefits.
"If they have been offered their employment back and they choose not to, then that is on their own doing. And then it is on the employer to notify the Department of Workforce Services that this employee is refusing to come back to work and therefore, if they still continue to claim their benefits… that's a fraudulent claim for us, and we will be tracking that," Preston said.
Preston said the state is currently testing its system for providing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments for self-employed Arkansans, which he said should be available in the next few days.
Dr. Michelle Smith, director of the Office of Health Equity and HIV Elimination at the Arkansas Department of Health, said the department is partnering with the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation on their COVID-19 Relief Initiative.
"Under this project, many grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to organizations addressing hardships due to COVID-19," Smith said. "We look forward to assisting them in identifying where the most need exists, so resources can quickly be disseminated to those areas."
Smith said the Health Department will also hold a webinar on May 5 to help familiarize barbershop and hair salon owners on the state’s new public health guidelines.