"Customers are not going to come back unless they feel safe and confident that they're not going to be exposed to the virus," said Governor John Carney on Tuesday. "I know our business sector partners really understand that and appreciate that."
As Delaware moves toward Phase I of reopening on June 1, Carney said he knows it's been difficult on small business owners to be closed for so long, but he's had a difficult job of balancing the priority of public safety with the needs of a strong economy in Delaware.
"I feel like a referee of some sort. And it's not just me, we're all kind of thinking through this and trying to balance out those two very important imperatives: the economic one and public health," he said. "You can't have one without the other. And you have to find a way to balance the two. We're not ignoring public health."
That's not a satisfying answer for all. Liz Martin has been the owner of Noche Azul Spa in Wilmington and a licensed aesthetician for 16 years. She doesn't understand why some businesses are being targeted for reopening--like barbershops or hair salons--when her work takes less time near a customer in a better environment, especially since she's also trained in all the same methods for customer safety.
"My message for the governor is: I want to open at 30% capacity, just like the hairstylist do. Cosmetology should open as a whole, not certain sectors. We're all qualified, we're all licensed, and we're all clean. That's the number one thing is his argument. Public health...We can't get our license until, and unless, we have a thorough understanding of what it takes to run a clean business."
She pointed out on a special edition of Reopening Delaware on the Rick Jensen Show Tuesday what she felt were inconsistencies in official explanation of why certain businesses could begin to look at reopening.
"We're no closer to a person than a hair stylist is," she said. "It takes less time to wax an eyebrow than, say, do a full highlight and color. That could take an hour-and-a-half. Waxing an eyebrow takes 15 minutes. So what is the actual argument...We're all licensed under cosmetology and barbering."
Similarly, SHon and Jessica Willis of Malarkey Tattoo in Bear said they've been trained extensively in pathogens far more serious than COVID-19.
"We run a very similar establishment to a hair salon or a barbershop or anything like that," SHon Willis said. "We run under very close licensing to them. We get monitored by the Board of Health. We have certifications in blood borne pathogens and cross-contamination that we have to get renewed yearly. We've been practicing all the correct steps to this for 100 years. Cleaning down surfaces after clients, treating everyone like they have the worst elements, so that you're always protected. You never relax on that idea that everyone is sick."
They said they always wear masks and gloves, and they're never breathing in people's faces during their work. And they said they're not asking for special treatment. Also on a special edition of Reopening Delaware on the Rick Jensen Show, the Willis's said they just want the same treatment.
"We don't want to open before anybody else. We would like just to open up with everyone else. And by no means am I talking about just my business, not just malarkey tattoo. I'm hopefully speaking on behalf of all tattoo shops out there," he said.
"We understand we're not essential, but at the same time, we need to get back to work," said Jessica Willis. It's time for us to get back to work. We've not been given very many opportunities...At this point, we have to get back to work, and we're able to do it in a safe manner."
"Our kids eating, that is essential," Shon added. "Our being paid is very essential."
He's aware of the sacrifices made by small business owners, Carney said, and thanked them Tuesday, and he hopes the timetables set forth will allow for everyone to get back to business, safely, soon.
"I think it's appropriate to thank all Delawareans for pitching in," Carney said Tuesday. "Everybody made sacrifices, some made bigger sacrifices than others, as their business was dependent on crowds and gatherings, the hospitality industry, tourism industry really has been battered pretty significantly. We've been working with that sector and will continue to do so to help them get back on their feet and survive and be what they are to our communities."
Certain businesses haven't yet been permitted to reopen because public health officials have identified concerns with how they would handle monitoring issues related to COVID-19 and its presence in the workplace.
"We have identified categories of businesses where employers should consider testing, and that guidance is now available online at de.gov/coronavirus, located under 'Resources for businesses," said Dr. Karyl Rattay. "This provides general guidance for businesses overall to help protect employees and customers and clients, but it also identifies the categories of businesses that may have employees at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 based on their job duties. And these businesses are encouraged to set up testing plans for staff, based on their employees risk exposure."
It's not good enough for a group who has already pitched in until their backs were strained, said Martin.
"I tried so hard to grow my business for the past five years, only to be told to shut it down. Which I gladly did. And I also gladly donated all of my masks and all of my gloves to the hospitals because I was in it to win it. I wanted to defeat the public pandemic. I wanted to do the right thing. And now it feels like the exact opposite is being done."
"We just want equal opportunity to open, just like all the other establishments. Beaches and bars and restaurants and everything," SHon Willi said. "We just want to have the same opportunity to be open and to take our precautions and to take care of our people and feed our family and support our business."