As barbershops, clothing stores, parks, gyms and other small businesses begin to reopen, the threat of the coronavirus pandemic remains for many. 

“Have you been sick, and have you been around anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus?” Melody Cothran  asks a customer before they enter Terry’s Family Barber in Flowood. When the customers are cleared to enter the shop, they are given hand sanitizer and the barbers sanitize their chairs, wear masks and change their disposable gloves.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced May 11 that barbershops and salons could reopen, but only with safety guidelines in place. Although the “Safer-at-Home” order remains in place until May 25, the governor announced on Friday that more businesses could resume operation.

“We are very happy to be here, our customers are happy to be here,” Mike Cothran, owner of Terry’s Family Barber, said. “We’re happy to be open because we can provide for our families and pay our bills.” 

Before entering the barbershop, screening has to take place and the business has to be cleaned and sanitized. Also, hand sanitizers must be at the entrance and chairs have to be rearranged to ensure that customers are 6 feet apart. The barber or stylist must sanitize their stations after each customer.

On Ellis Avenue, Valencia White, owner of Boss Lady’s Luxury Virgin Hair, would typically have several customers at different stations in the salon. Having more customers simultaneously receiving services generates more revenue, however regulations only allow one customer at a time. White is just thankful that her business is back to making money.

“We went from making money daily to not making money at all, so it has definitely been rough,” White said. “We are thankful that we are able to reopen, but it’s kinda of slow.”

“It’s kind of hectic trying to do hair or curl hair with gloves on, but we still have to do it,” White said. “Even though we are able to reopen and make money, it’s not the same money that we could make like when we were full service, so money is limited.” 

Not only is she concerned about the slow income, the threat of pandemic reaches outside of her business and into her personal life. “We are being cautious with the virus because we don’t want to take it home to our families,” White added.

Earlier this month, Reeves reopened the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir and parks around the state. As of Monday, May 18, Mississippi has 11,432 cases and 528 deaths.

“None of these reopening efforts means that the danger is gone,” Reeves said on Friday in announcing that casinos would be allowed to reopen May 21.  

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Eric J. Shelton was a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018. He rejoined Mississippi Today as our health photojournalist in January 2022.