Local nail salons haven’t been ordered to shut down in the COVID-19 crisis, so many are staying open for business with extra precautions.
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DESTIN — For Wendy Le, the risk of staying open just wasn't worth it.
Not for her, and not for the other employees at her Painting Nails and Spa (4463 Commons Drive West) in the face of the growing COVID-19 virus outbreak across Florida and the rest of the nation.
"My job is to touch hands, touch skin, to get very close to a lot of people," said Le, who closed her salon last Wednesday for two weeks. "That's why we're closed for two, maybe three weeks. Depending on when it goes away, but you don't know when it's over. And even when it stops, I may still wait a little bit."
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Nail salons have an inherent danger because the work can't be performed while still keeping a "social distance" of 6 feet between people - there has to be direct contact with customers.
Plenty of local salons were willing to take the risk. At Polish Wax and Nail Bar (21 Eglin Parkway SE) in Fort Walton Beach, Manager Charity Hatch said they were open for business with some strict modifications.
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"We're running the business at 50% capacity," Hatch said. "We're only allowing five (customers) in at a time, and there's one nail tech working with each of them. We're following all the proper protocols but until the governor tells us to shut down, we won't, and right now it's looking like we will close the first week of April, anyways.
"We're by appointment only right now and dealing mainly with regular clients and locals ... we want to get the regular clients caught up so they don't have nail issues if we are closed for a long time."
All of the salons still open have had a drastic decline in business - Hatch guessed they'd experienced an 85% drop in sales over the last few weeks.
One thing that has brought workers some feeling of security is face masks - which they're already required to wear when working.
At Tips & Toes Spa (75 Eglin Parkway NW, Unit 117) in Uptown Station, they were allowing just three customers in at once and just six people total in the shop at any time. Top Nails (421 Mary Esther Cut Off NW) was going by appointment only.
Vee Dixon, a nail tech at Jadenails (722 Beal Parkway NW) was finishing out appointments this week that were made one month ago.
"Honestly, we're not really open," Dixon said. "I'm just trying to come in and finish off the appointments I did have, but honestly, no I'm not worried (about COVID-19) because I wipe my chairs down with Clorox, wipe down everything else and I'm wearing a mask.
"I'm also not going to let anyone come in who looks sick or is coughing or anything like that, and I don't think any of my clients would come in if they felt sick. I know most of them pretty well and I know they would call and cancel."