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Tattoo shops, spa owners continue to wait for green light to reopen in Santa Barbara County

Posted at 11:25 PM, Jun 17, 2020

Just two days shy of finally getting to reopen, businesses like tattoo shops and massage parlors have hit another roadblock.

Santa Barbara County officials announced Wednesday that the next phase of reopening has been put on pause.

County officials say there's been a new surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, and they are concerned that more places opening could continue that spread.

Some business owners who are still waiting to open say it's scary not knowing when that next check will finally come in.

"This has been our sole source of income for over 15 years," said Jason Bettencourt, Owner of Ink Headz Tattoo in Santa Maria. "It's hard on not just me but our artists and employees also."

Tattoo shops, spas, and nail and skin care services were supposed to be allowed open up in Santa Barbara County on Friday, but now that's on hold.

"It kinda makes you upset because we've already had a sterile work environment before the [COVID-19] pandemic," Bettencourt said. "We deal with the health department; we have random inspections. This is probably one of the most sterile environments you're going to walk into in a day."

For Lotus Day Spa Owner, Nicole Cothran, she says her clients are frustrated and that many need a way to relax now more than ever.

"The setback feels uneasy because we don't know what's going on," Cothran said. "If you're watching the news and knowing that people are still getting infected with the virus and other places are reopening -- it's not making sense."

The county says they want people to go back to being cautious about the disease as further spread could cause the county to go backwards and close doors again.

"As we see an increase in cases we need to recommit ourselves -- everybody in the county -- to doing the simple things," said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart. "Wearing a face covering, washing your hands, and not touching your face -- those strategies remain our best tools to fight COVID-19."

The county says it continues to evaluate new case counts and hospitalizations. It's unknown at this time when the new reopening date will be.

A spokesperson for Cottage Hospital tells KSBY in a statement:

When we look at the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 illness, we’re seeing a steeper rise now compared to the March and April numbers at Cottage. The number of people who require hospital care is an important indicator of community spread because it is not impacted by increased testing capacity.

Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious disease specialist at Cottage Hospital says diligence is needed to protect everyone in the community as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

In a statement Dr. Fitzgibbons writes:

The epidemic locally is not over. Every case we see here impacts our community as a whole. To protect each other, we need to recommit to the safety precautions which are essential to prevent spread of the virus. This means wearing a mask to cover both nose and mouth, diligent hand hygiene, safe physical distancing -- and maintaining these protections any time you need to be outside your home and in the community. Carefulness in these small steps could save someone’s life. The work of our community members to protect each other is what makes the difference.

In San Luis Obispo County, spa services and tattoo shops are set to reopen this Friday under new guidelines from the state that include staff and customers wearing a mask the entire time the service is being provided.