The cost of quarantine: owners of ‘non-essential’ businesses give their take

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) According to state and Federal officials, social distancing measures are working. Staying six feet apart, spending time at home, and closing nonessential businesses seems to have helped slow the spread of COVID-19.

Many local small businesses have been forced to close due to health mandates. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

But at what cost?

“Well I think it is a good idea, I think we should definitely be staying home and trying to limit the spread of the virus, but at the same time it’s scary as a business owner,” said Stacy Yates, the owner of Enchanted Forest Toys.

On March 23 the State of Alaska closed all personal care services like barber shops, hair salons, and tattoo parlors. Four days later Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a health mandate ordering all ‘non-essential’ businesses to close.

Yates said that while she thinks the mandates are necessary, her business could help people stay at home.

"Especially with everybody being quarantined, we have had a lot of request for puzzles, games, art, crafts... and people are definitely wanting to spend more family time together," Yates said.

Yates worked with the mayor’s office to find a way to partially open to curbside deliveries. She said the store is still closed inside, but people can call in orders, pay over the phone or online, and then have items delivered to their cars.

Other businesses haven’t been so fortunate. Barbershops and hair salons say they don’t feel ‘non-essential.’

"I know we are considered a ‘non-essential business’, but ask most of our clients -- we're really essential. This is where you feel good," according to Maria Messina from Team Cutters.

Owners of shops like Team Cutters and Just Haircuts say they want to work with medical professionals and find ways to safely reopen. Joe Dinkens, who owns Just Haircuts, says he sent a letter to Governor Dunleavy with ideas of how to reopen.

"I just said that I think we should be able to open as long as we wear gloves, change gloves before and after each customer, wash our hands before and after each customer, and make sure all of our tools and equipment are sterilized," Dinkens said.

He said that he has been getting 20 to 30 calls a day asking him when he will reopen -- so when he does, he is sure he will be busy.

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