Santa Clara County allows facial services to reopen
The Original Facial Bar owner Maya Mansour is pictured at her Cupertino salon. Photo by Vicente Vera.

Santa Clara County is lifting restrictions on licensed estheticians and other skin care professionals who were previously prohibited from operating due to the coronavirus.

County public health officials on Sunday afternoon made the change that will now allow facial services to resume. Previously, the county allowed hair and nails salons to reopen for both indoor and outdoor services, but left estheticians off the list. Officials said the close contact between an esthetician and client receiving a facial carried a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Santa Clara County remains in the “substantial risk” red tier of the state’s reopening blueprint, the second most restrictive of the four color-coded tiers. Under the red tier, all personal care services, including hair and nail salons, tanning salons, body art and massage therapy, can reopen.

The businesses still must follow strict safety guidelines, including requiring face coverings for staff and clients, limiting the number of people inside, maintaining a distance of six feet or more and stringent cleaning and sanitation requirements.

The county’s decision to allow esthetician services brings relief to the South Bay’s struggling skin care industry.

When Santa Clara County became among the first in the nation to announce shutdown orders on non-essential services, salon owner Maya Mansour said she knew her finances would take a hit.

Like neighboring businesses in the once active retail space along Stevens Creek Blvd., Original Facial Bar was told by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to wait.

“I opened my second location in Cupertino in the beginning of this year, we never got the chance to do a grand opening,” Mansour said. “We were open for three and a half months before we got shut down.”

More than six months after the initial shutdown orders, licensed estheticians were among the few people still completely barred from operating. While nearby counties like San Francisco also banned facials and other services that require removing a mask, San Mateo County has allowed esthetic and cosmetology services to the face and neck since July 27.

“These guys haven’t missed a single paycheck, they look down upon industries that are not medical,” said Fred Jones, legal counsel for the Professional Beauty Federation of California.

Jones represented licensed estheticians around the state in a May 12 lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom to end restrictive orders – the story garnered national coverage.

While Santa Clara County peeled back restrictions on estheticians, the county still won’t allow indoor dining or worshipping.

The Silicon Valley Organization, the region’s largest chamber of commerce, launched a new campaign calling on county officials to allow restaurants and places of worship to resume indoors at 25% capacity. SVO officials encouraged business members to sign on to a letter to Newsom, county health officials and the Board of Supervisors.

“Many businesses have sat idle for the last 7+ months and are on the brink of extinction because Santa Clara County officials have not created an environment where businesses can safely reopen and have a fighting chance to survive,” said Matthew Mahood, president and CEO of the SVO. “Our coalition wants to be part of the solution in finding a responsible balance between life with COVID-19 and meaningful, authentic gatherings and business survival.”

On Monday, county officials announced they will seek to move into the lower-risk orange tier and could reopen all businesses indoors — including restaurants and churches — at 25% capacity as early as next week.

Pastor Greg Wendschlag of Abundant Life Assembly of God in Cupertino joined the call to reopening indoors because he said the gathering of people is precious and plays a vital role at his church.

“The shutdown mandates from the state and county of Santa Clara are very inconsistent,” Wendschlag said. “The county has been much more stringent than the state regarding worship gatherings even though the (COVID-19) numbers are very low.”

Wendschlag preaches to his congregation through livestreams, sometimes with a small crowd gathered outside the church watching on a television screen. “If the county relaxed some of their restrictions, we would be happy to continue that practice of having people sign up for a particular gathering,” he said.

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody has warned that reopening businesses too quickly might lead to a spike in new COVID-10 cases. As of Sunday, the county reported 21,840 total COVID-19 cases and 344 deaths.

“There are however three areas under the state’s red tier that may not open under the county’s risk reduction order — that is indoor dining, indoor gatherings and indoor movie theaters,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams.

But Dennis King, executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said allowing struggling businesses to reopen indoors at 25% capacity throws them a “lifeline.”

“For those that have regular customers, it’s a renewal of pledge for them to continue to provide service,” he said. “It’s also a message to employees, or former employees not to give up and most importantly to the overall community is that we’re not surrendering.”

In order for Santa Clara County to move into the orange “moderate” phase of reopening, the new daily cases must be between one and 3.9 cases per 100,000 residents and the positivity rate must be between 2% and 4.9%. The soonest the county might move into that next phase is Oct. 13, officials said.

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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