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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Everything you need to know for Wednesday's reopening

    Raychelle Rivera, left, and I Got You Next Barbershop owner Danny Garcia attach hangers on a shower curtain as they hang barriers between work stations at the Groton shop Friday, May 15, 2020, in preparation for reopening this week. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    On Wednesday, Connecticut will allow the reopening — under strict guidelines — of hair salons and barbershops, restaurants, museums and zoos, retail shops and malls, offices, university research programs and outdoor recreation that had been shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Museums will be open outdoors only. Mystic Seaport Museum plans to open its grounds May 23, with free admission the first week, while Mystic Aquarium has not yet announced a date. Restaurants will be able to begin offering some outdoor dining service.

    For offices, the state is still encouraging people to work from home if they can.

    David Lehman, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said nine health and economic indicators informed decisions on what will open: contact proximity, contact length, number of contacts, potential for disinfection, potential for social distancing, GDP, number of businesses impacted, total unemployment, and unemployment claims.

    Some reopening rules are the same across the board — such as a 50% capacity limit, requirements for employees and customers to wear masks, and maintaining 6-foot social distancing — while others are sector-specific. Businesses are required to self-certify with the state before reopening.

    Before you head to a business, you should check its website or Facebook page to see if it is open. Some businesses have changed their hours.

    Where can I get my hair cut?

    According to their respective Facebook pages, some of the salons and barbershops that intend to open on May 20 include:

    • East Lyme: Justina's Barber Shop, Lucien's Barbering, Luscious Hair Salon, Meraki Salon, Posh Salon, Salon Champagne

    • Groton: Binet Cuts, Bliss Hair Studio, Five Zero Mane Salon, Hao's Barber Shop, Home Salon and Spa, I Got You Next Barbershop, Wildflower Salon

    • Ledyard: Luna Hair Salon, Mirror Image

    • New London: Townline Barber Shop

    • Norwich: Hair Artists, Medusa Hair Salon

    • Montville: Thib's Barbershop

    • Mystic: Adesso Hair Salon, Crop Boutique Hair Salon, Giabonni's & Co

    • Old Lyme: Hair Trendz Hair Salon

    • Stonington: Modern Barber and Shave, Shar-Jais Hair Salon

    • Waterford: A Cut Above Hair Design, Kirsis' Hair Design & Spa

    Some have cautioned customers to ensure the mask they're wearing is one they don't mind getting messy with hair dye stains, and some will have masks for sale. The state reversed its initial prohibition on blow-drying, but some salons said they still won't offer this service.

    Paula Peltier, owner of A Cut Above Hair Design, said she has been stocking up on cleaning supplies and thinking about reopening since the day she was shut down but a lot of salons didn't do that. Some of her employees will be returning right away, whereas others are waiting a week or two, some as they look for child care.

    She said Friday she is already booked out two and a half or three weeks.

    Peltier said she doesn't want to hike her prices, whereas Wildflower Salon and Medusa Hair Salon posted that it will raise prices or add a surcharge because of increased costs of operation. Danny Garcia, owner of I Got You Next Barbershop, told The Day his prices will go up 15%-20% to reflect money spent on face shields, gloves and other supplies.

    Garcia recently was building stands to make the stations moveable and putting up drapes between each station. When a client comes in, a barber will meet the client at the door with hand sanitizer, a thermometer and quick questionnaire, Garcia said, and he's making one door an entrance and another an exit.

    But many salon owners pleaded with the state not to set an opening date as early as May 20.

    Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President Tony Sheridan thinks he got about 220 emails from hair and nail salons opposing reopening, and Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region Executive Director Nancy Cowser said she "must've gotten 200 emails from hair salons, many of whom did not want to reopen. They didn't feel safe." Sheridan and Cowser are members of the Reopen Connecticut Small Business Implementation Task Force.

    Nancy's Salon in New London posted on Facebook on May 6, "We will open the salon doors when the science, data and facts make sense to do so. In our opinion, to open when the number of cases and deaths in SE Connecticut are rising is not in our best interest or yours."

    Hair 4 U in Norwich said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health department protocols are "beyond us," and personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies are "near impossible to get."

    LoKs Salon in Groton said it is still waiting for necessary supplies to come in and will be opening June 16. Other delayed opening dates are May 26 for That Look Salon in East Lyme; June 2 for Shear Timing Hair Salon in Uncasville; June 9 for Frank & Ray's Barbershop in Montville, which is being renamed Carlos Studios; and June 20 for Wayne's Barbershop in Mystic.

    Where can I eat?

    Some local eating establishments that tentatively plan to open up their existing outdoor spaces on May 20, per their Facebook pages, include Dog Watch Café, Red 36, S&P Oyster, The Spot Café, On the Waterfront, Muddy Waters Café, Berry's Ice Cream & Candy Bar, Filomena's, Sunset Ribs, Flanders Fish Market (but without table service at first), Harp & Dragon and Canggio Restaurant/Bar.

    Others plan to place tables on sidewalks, side streets, parking lots and more.

    Restaurants must use paper menus or write the menu on a chalkboard in lieu of reusable menus, use rolled or packaged silverware, and only provide condiments in single-use packages.

    The Day conducted an informal poll via SMS messaging, Twitter and email newsletter, asking, "Do you plan on dining out starting May 20?" Of the 180 responses, 43% said "Absolutely not," 38% said "I'm going to wait and see," and 18% said "Absolutely, I can't wait."

    Where can I go shopping?

    In Mystic, some small businesses that have said on Facebook they're opening May 20 include Franklin's General Store, Mallove's and Adore. Niantic shops opening up May 20 include Book Barn and Past to Present Collectibles. Some others are Fun Company and Pup Stop in Stonington Borough, and The Telegraph record store in New London.

    Both Niantic Main Street and New London Main Street are working on putting together lists of businesses that will be open May 20.

    Crystal Mall does not have any information about reopening on its website or social media, and a spokesperson for owner Simon Malls could not provide any additional information.

    Mallory Smith, a spokesperson for Michaels, said the arts and craft company "is aware of the state's phase one rollout timing and plans to reopen area stores promptly thereafter." A spokesperson for T.J. Maxx said he encourages people to visit the store locator, which he expects to be updated daily, to see if a particular store is open.

    What will be different about my shopping experience?

    The rules from the state require stores to make hand sanitizer available at entrances, put a physical barrier at checkout, install social distancing markers, remove samples and make doorways single-direction. Stores must operate at 50% capacity, which is based on the occupancy set by each town's fire marshal.

    The state is encouraging people over age 65 and those at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus to still stay home after May 20. Lehman said they can still receive unemployment benefits, and noted this is a recommendation but not a mandate, as the state can't discriminate based on age.

    One rule that changed this past week was the original requirement that fitting rooms be closed. On Friday, state officials said the guidance will be updated to say that any clothes a customer tries on must either be quarantined for 48 hours or steam-cleaned before being returned to the floor.

    "We heard loud and clear the importance of fitting rooms," Lehman said. Both CBIA President Joe Brennan and CRMA President Tim Phelan said this change demonstrates the flexibility the state has.

    The rule change is particularly welcome news to bridal shop owners.

    Mishelle Gallagher, owner of Mishale Bridal in Niantic, reached out to The Day on May 8 with her frustrations. A bride-to-be won't buy a dress without trying it on, and Gallagher said it wouldn't be feasible to hold a credit card for someone to try on four or five dresses, each worth between $500 and $900, at home.

    Kirsten Nicholas, owner of Love Me Two Times in Norwich, said Friday she's already lost her entire busy season and more than $100,000.

    "I get it if you're Walmart and you're Target and you have hundreds of people coming through your dressing rooms every day and you can't disinfect in between," she said of the original policy, adding, "I'll be lucky to see six brides in a day."

    What about university research programs?

    Phased reopening of UConn and UConn Health research programs will begin May 20, according to the university's website.

    To resume research, labs must get written approval from the Office of the Vice President for Research, which requires completing an online training course and submitting a COVID-19 safety plan. Upon reopening, each lab or research program must maintain a log of employees on premise for contact tracing.

    Jennifer Widness, president of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, said institutions choosing to reopen offices and research programs must certify to DECD they've met the requirements issued and notify Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

    One of CCIC's 15 members is Connecticut College, where spokesperson Tiffany Thiele said the Summer Science Research Institute won't be impacted because it is entirely remote this year.

    What about outdoor recreation?

    On April 30, the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group included outdoor recreation, such as camping and mountain biking, in its list of businesses that could open May 20. But DECD's May 20th Reopen rules page doesn't include guidelines for this sector.

    DECD spokesperson Jim Watson said additional guidelines for outdoor recreation will probably be released early this coming week.

    Some local businesses that intend to open under the category of outdoor recreation include Fields of Fire Adventure Park in Mystic and Black Hawk Sport Fishing in Niantic.

    How will the rules be enforced?

    Lehman on Friday said DECD is finalizing a policy on enforcing the guidelines. He said it will enable public health inspectors to revoke licenses in the event of serious infractions, and that with local enforcement, there's a potential for a fine or criminal misdemeanor charge.

    "This is not something we want to utilize, but it's really important to us that we have a mechanism that has teeth," he said.

    He also said Thursday, during a virtual meeting of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, that the United Way's 211 system will be used to take complaints from customers or employees.

    What if people refuse to return to work?

    One question that has come up a lot is whether people still can collect unemployment benefits if their business reopens but they refuse to go back to work, a situation that could come up for various reasons.

    Perhaps someone is worried about their health because they're elderly or have a pre-existing health condition. Perhaps a parent needs to stay home with their children.

    There's also the issue that for many, the combination of the $600-a-week federal payment — which Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed into law, and which lasts through July — and state unemployment benefits is more than their normal paycheck.

    Connecticut Department of Labor spokesperson Nancy Steffens said the guidance from the department's legal person is that these issues are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. If someone doesn't want to return to work, the department will hold a fact-finding to determine unemployment eligibility, and the department will review requirements based on COVID-19 concerns.


    From left, Raychelle Rivera, Maxi Blanco and I Got You Next Barbershop owner Danny Garcia hang shower curtain barriers between work stations Friday, May 15, 2020, in preparation for reopening the Groton shop this week. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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