People from across California, other states driving to Sutter and Yuba counties for haircuts
The temptation after seeing the Facebook post was too great for J Farr, a 28-year-old living in near isolation in his Olympia, Wash., apartment. An old friend from his hometown of Yuba City, north of Sacramento, had announced he had gotten a haircut.
"I immediately started making preparations," said Farr, who before the coronavirus pandemic would get his hair cut every few weeks and, with no clear end in sight, had considered shaving his head.
A couple of days later, Farr, who had lost his job as a paint sprayer, was in his Volkswagen Jetta listening to country music and driving more than 600 miles back home for the first time in four years. He arrived on Tuesday night, and by the next afternoon was sitting at the busy Butte House Barber Shop in Sutter County.
His barber wore a mask, but Farr didn't. He left sporting a fade haircut with a quarter-inch taken off the top. It cost $20 plus tip.
"When I got in there it was exactly what I had hoped for," he said. "I've been isolated for the last three months and that's the first time I had that type of social interaction in that period. It's a really good feeling to feel like there's other people in the world who aren't going to sit inside in fear when there's nothing to be afraid of."
People from across California and outside the state have been driving hours to visit beauty salons in neighboring Sutter and Yuba counties, which have opened their parlors under local guidance despite Gov. Gavin Newsom's statewide stay-at-home order. Clients desperate for a haircut have also sought a sense of normalcy after living with little social contact for months.
Some salons worried about losing their state license haven't opened. Many are having clients wait in their cars and, per county rules, require face coverings and limit close contact with beauty professionals to 30 minutes. Patrons often leave with wet hair.
The demand for cuts and color, both from locals and outsiders, has been overwhelming.
"I am cutting people's hair from out of state, from San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Martinez, Fresno, Madera, Redding, Reno," said Wes Heryford, 42, owner of the Butte House Barber Shop. "There's not very many options and people are excited that there is someone cutting hair, so they have no problem to drive three or four hours to come see us."
In early May, officials in Yuba and Sutter counties allowed fitness centers, restaurants, shopping malls, hair and nail salons, spas, tattoo parlors and other businesses to reopen, ahead of the state's plans, as long as social distancing and other safety protocols were followed. Officials have argued that the counties, which together have had more than 60 COVID-19 cases, were less affected by the pandemic than spots such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
This past week, counties like Yuba and Sutter received permission to move further into what the governor has called Phase 2 of California's reopening plan and open more businesses. While that phase still does not allow personal care services like salons to operate, the Yuba-Sutter bi-county health officer has held that the local order still stands and that businesses should seek private legal counsel if they do not fall within Phase 2.
The discrepancy has concerned many salon owners. The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology has warned that it may pursue disciplinary action against the licenses of those who do not follow the state's stay-at-home order. The board has received more than 800 complaints of businesses across the state operating in violation of the order but has taken no disciplinary action yet, a spokesman said.