Hairstylist with coronavirus worked while symptomatic, exposing as many as 91 people

Hairstylist with coronavirus worked while symptomatic, exposing as many as 91 people
Great Clips (Source: CBS)

MISSOURI (CBS News) - A hairstylist in Missouri saw dozens of clients this month while sick with coronavirus. Despite showing symptoms, the stylist went to work for over a week in May, exposing as many as 91 people to COVID-19.

According to the Springfield-Green County Health Department, the stylist went to work at a Great Clips location in Springfield while showing coronavirus symptoms from May 12 to May 20. Officials said both the stylist, whose name has not been released, and their clients were wearing face coverings during the appointments.

84 clients and 7 coworkers were potentially directly exposed to the virus, officials said. All of the individuals exposed are being notified and offered testing, and the Great Clips location is temporarily closed.

“We hope that this is an overly cautious approach,” Director of Public Health Clay Goddard said during a news conference.

Officials did not disclose when the hairstylist tested positive, but said they believe the individual contracted the virus while traveling. Barbershops and salons were allowed to operate in Missouri at the time.

Goddard praised the hair salon for following proper safety and hygiene precautions, in addition to keeping detailed records of clients and employees. He emphasized that he believes it is now safe to go to the salon to seek services.

“It is the hope of the department that because face coverings were worn throughout this exposure timeline, no additional cases will result,” the health department said.

However, Goddard said he wished individuals were as diligent as businesses have been. In addition to going to work, he said the stylist also went to his or her local Dairy Queen, Walmart and fitness center.

"I'll be honest, I'm very frustrated to be up here today, and maybe even more so, I'm disappointed," he said. "I wish the same level of personal responsibility had been exercised in this case."

A detailed timeline of the places visited by the stylist can be found on the health department's website.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson lifted many of the state's restrictions and its stay-at-home order on May 4. And as many businesses around the U.S. reopen following weeks or months of lockdown, the threats of community spread remain as high as ever.

"We can't have many more of these. We can't make this a regular habit or our capability as a community will be strained and we will have to reevaluate what things look like going forward," Goddard empasized. "Each of us has to be thinking of the good of ourselves, our family and our community. We don't want to move backward."

First published on May 23, 2020 / 11:27 AM

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