Governor Newsom has repeatedly suggested that the first community transmission of COVID-19 in California came from a nail salon. Unsurprisingly, beauticians across the state remain bewildered by the claim and fear the repercussions it may have on their businesses.
Aside from Friday's news that roughly 70 percent of CA's economy was now able to reopen (with modifications) moving into Phase 2 of the state's reopening program, another assertion was again made by the governor: California's community spread of the novel respiratory disease may have begun in a nail salon.
“People are asking: ‘Where’s the evidence?’ We realize he’s concerned, but salons are a place where people wear masks and gloves generally.” https://t.co/SxeUxc1s0T— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) May 10, 2020
Without further elaboration, the California Governor's comment landed with a deafening thud to nail salon owners and beauticians across the state, an industry, as the Chronicle points out, is run largely by "women and foreign-born residents."
“Factually, that’s true, it was the first case,” Newsom said Friday when pushed to explain his assertion which is likely related to a COVID-19 case thought to have originated from a Solano County nail salon in February. Though he never named a specific business or name, Newsom made it a point to applaud the "noble" industry's role in offering some people an “exit point out of poverty.”
The same vocational cohort Newson celebrated — while tip-toeing around his claim — considerably irked and worried.
"We strictly abide by all the rules so that's why it was troublesome and harmful in our industry to hear that coming from him," Jane Phung of Blackhawk Beauty Bar in Danville remarked to KTVU in defense of her industry — and the fellow beauticians that make their livings in it. Phung said that she'd been wearing a black face mask with a red heart toward the top that, below it, read "Governor Newsom."
She, too, wore the same mask during her interview.
"These are hardworking individuals who rely on all of their hard work, sweat, and tears and labor just to provide for their families,' Phung added.
Like-minded denouncements and calls for more mindful language on the topic came from elsewhere in the beauty space.
"I think my brain stopped working and I was saying, what the hell? I never heard anything like that before," said Kelvin Pham, co-producer of the documentary Nailed It which dives into the history and prominence of Vietnamese nail salons in the United States, to ABC7.
"Second thought is the impact, the impact of his remark, what it can have not only on the nail industry but particularly the Vietnamese nail industry," he continued. "We came here to this country as refugees, left our country, not because we want to but because we had to."
According to a UCLA labor study, over half of the country's nail salons are either owned or jointly operated by those of Vietnamese descent; in both Southern Northern California, that figure sits closer to 80 percent.
Christie Nguyen, the co-owner of Studio 18 Nails in Orange County, said to the Los Angeles Times that she’s not looking for an apology from Newsom — but, rather, would like to join forces with the governor to help create safer working conditions.
“We invite the governor to come to Orange County and work with us to create an environment safe for everyone,” Ngyuen adds, coincidentally supporting Phung’s closing statement in her KTVU interview: “We’re all in this together.”
Newsom is expected to unveil new measures for Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the state’s economic reopening this coming week, which include updates about how nail salons can operate amid the pandemic.
Image: Unsplash via Kris Atomic