I’m advocating for the government’s permission to immediately reopen not only my business ‘Rose Noir Tattoo Studio’, but all tattoo shops and personal service businesses in counties that have not yet been allowed to do so. It is my hope that by explaining and sharing my point of view that I am demonstrating competency in my ability to operate my business safely during this pandemic so that I may earn a living for myself and regain the part of myself and of my life that is my passion--my tattoo career and business. If after reading this you agree in any way, PLEASE like and share this message so we can save the livelihoods of people in the personal services industries and show support for those who need it. 😊

I can no longer sit back and watch my business and others in the personal services categories crumble to pieces. It is absolutely my responsibility to advocate for myself and others. Our sacrifices have largely gone unnoticed and our abilities to operate safely have been overlooked. It needs to end now.

In order to be approved to begin the operation of a Tattoo Body Art facility, a thorough health inspection is performed by a health inspector of the respective county. During the inspection, the inspector observes all licensees demonstrate a proper disinfection, sanitation, and prevention of cross-contamination of the tattoo procedure area. All of this is completed as part of the application process to gain county permission to operate a tattoo facility. The inspectors do not look at portfolios or quality of the art, they are only concerned with proper sanitation. I have always passed my tests, renewals, and inspections on the first attempt with no remarks against me or my shop.

In addition all tattoo facilities must:

  • Provide yearly Blood Borne Pathogen training and testing to licensees

  • Submit lengthy documents including floor plans, materials of the floor, walls, etc., Infection Prevention and Control Plan, disinfectant product list

  • Renew Establishment License and individual Practitioner’s License yearly

  • Pass randomized inspections yearly

The Infection Prevention and Control Plan (IPCP) is a detailed document providing a thorough plan of how to avoid spread of disease and cross-contamination. My descriptions of how cross-contamination is prevented results in a meticulous 13 page report, increasing to 26 pages when sterilization records, cleaning chemical labels and instructions, etc. are included in the document. In quick summary, every day we tattoo artists use PPE (including masks when necessary), we use medical grade disinfectants, and we review consent forms that include medical conditions that may deem clients unable to undergo tattoo procedures. Sounds like I have been training for Covid-19 my whole career.

So in an industry heavily regulated by county health departments (Alameda County Department of Environmental Health regulating for my shop location), why are we considered unsafe to reopen? Target, Walmart, grocery stores, BevMO, Home Depot (all considered “essential”, BevMO? Really?), are not required to go through a rigorous proof of sanitation just to apply for permits and be granted permission to commence business. What county health inspectors review the sanitation procedures of these stores during a pandemic? I was inspected, tested, and passed before there even was a pandemic! I and other tattoo artists have proven that we know how to operate safely under the threat of infection. Yet these stores have hundreds, if not thousands of customers daily making it near impossible to maintain the level of sanitation that I do. I have a maximum of 2 clients daily in my shop.

According to the CDC, (as we all know by now) COVID is spread person to person through respiratory droplets of an infected individual that make their way via sneeze, cough, or speech to another individual’s mouth or nose. Also, according to the CDC there are steps we can take to prevent the spread: frequent hand washing/ hand sanitizing,  avoiding  close contact with people who are sick , cover your cough or sneeze, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily, and maintaining a distance of 6 feet from other people. CDC additionally recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. The CDC states that cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. In my shop I hand wash frequently as required by my profession. I disinfect all surfaces as required by my profession. I do not allow sick individuals to undergo tattoo procedures as required by my profession, and I absolutely can wear a face mask. I will 100% acknowledge that I cannot stay 6 feet away from my clients during the tattoo process. But given my years of training, given my passed health inspections, given my disinfection and sanitation procedures, and given the ease of wearing masks and face shields, I know that I can without a doubt offer a safe environment to myself and my clients where the possibility of disease is incredibly low.

I did some math--as of July 26, 453,659 people have tested positive for coronavirus in California which means approximately 1.15% of the population has been or is infected with coronavirus. So I take it that I have a 1.15% chance of encountering a person who has tested positive (whether recently or months ago) in my place of business. The percentage of positive cases is even lower in my county at just .62%. Even if I did encounter an individual who is COVID positive, there is only a possibility they may spread it to me or around my shop, not a certainty. That’s where disinfection and PPE, tools I’ve used my entire career, come in to stop the spread. Yet I have sacrificed my livelihood and tens of thousands of dollars for the greater good. I have followed the rules. I have sacrificed. I have done my part but I am tired of being let down by the government and I refuse to watch my greatest pride and joy, my greatest achievement, my life’s work wash down the drain because of a hypothetical infection prediction and a half-assed attempt to “flatten the curve.” Many in favor of the lockdown state the need and desire to come together and to care about your neighbor, to stop the spread. Yes, that’s great and all, but also extend your compassion to make sure your neighbors and friends don’t go bankrupt and become a different kind of COVID casualty. Imagine the surge in cases when people become homeless, imagine the surge in serious complications or death (not just COVID related) because they can’t pay for health insurance anymore. Just realize that the reality of financial despair, the increase of mental health issues, and the uncertainty pertaining to this shutdown causing permanent business closures are just as valid as the fear and risk of contracting coronavirus. Your friends and acquaintances need your support when they assert that they can operate their businesses safely. If big box stores can do it, you bet your ass small businesses can too. We possess a great pride in our work and in our enterprises, where many big business employees do not. We have a sense of responsibly to ascertain that our customers are safe. And we have the know how to do it!

Let me back up to around noon on March 16, 2020 when the entire Bay Area issued a 12-hour notice to mandatorily close all “non-essential” businesses for three weeks, through no fault of our own. I heard the news sometime between 4:00 and 5:00pm because I was engaged in a tattoo session. My immediate reaction was that I felt shocked, mad, scared, and confused. Shocked that a virus is causing a shutdown and I’m actually experiencing it in my lifetime. Mad that I had very little notice to comply with the demand of closing, leaving me with a lot of customers to contact and no income for the duration of the shutdown. Scared that maybe this virus is far more dangerous than I thought. And confused because Total Wine, BevMo and the grungy liquor store down the street that smells like vomit are “essential.” Now fast forward to present day, as I write it is July 27th, 134 days into the Shelter in Place orders. I have had ZERO personal income for this entire duration of the economic shutdown. The little I have received from the government assistance programs (PPP loans and unemployment benefits) has gone straight to paying the bills at my business and still leaves me greatly in the negative each month. This includes rent, all utilities (electricity, internet, phones, water, garbage, etc.), insurance, license renewals, permit renewals, bloodborne pathogen training, and many more expenses required to maintain a business even if it is closed. The business bank account is dried up, the personal savings are dwindling at an alarming rate, and there still is no indication of when the shutdown will end. If you do not own a storefront, imagine for a moment the extreme financial burden of paying all of your usual personal expenses times 3 (to account for business expenses) with no money coming in. How long will your savings last? How is your dwindling savings account affecting your future plans and goals? This is exactly how businesses who have been completely shut down feel. But for us it is real, not imaginary. It is far more real than the possibility of getting sick. Losing everything you have is an absolute certainty if the government does not either let us reopen safely or compensate us a living wage and business expenses now.

It seems to me that there is a public misconception of the helpfulness SBA PPP loan funding conjured up by the US Congress. The PPP loan program is not as great and as beneficial as it should be, in my experience. The general terms of the loans to be eligible for forgiveness are that the funds must be used for an 8 week period after being received, the majority of the funds must be used to pay employees (75% before amendment, 60% after), and the remaining funds can go to expenses such as rent. This is great if you’re an employee at a small business- you’ve got your paycheck pretty much guaranteed for 8 weeks. But this has been going on for 4 and a half months now, so what happens to paychecks for the last 2 months? And what about the expenses necessary to keep a business in business like paying for your building? If the bills can’t be paid to keep the building, the business closes, the jobs are lost. This is a tricky situation because unemployment benefits could help the individual employees and free up the loan money for the business to stay afloat and pay the bills, but that won’t qualify for forgiveness. And most small businesses wouldn’t even apply for the loans if they could not be forgiven because the burden of repaying in an uncertain financial future is too great. Cue the next problem, according to the US Census Bureau, 75% of small businesses applied for PPP but fewer than 40% received funding by May when the height of the lockdown was already 2 months strong. The application process is complicated and the loan amount did not seem to be significantly influenced by the status of the business being closed, partially closed, or reduced revenue. At this point in time, many businesses remained open the entire duration of SIP, some closed parts of their business (i.e. restaurants closing dine in, but offering take out), some closed temporarily but have reopened, and some are still completely closed like me and the other personal service industries.

These last few months have been a nightmare for small businesses, especially the ones that are still closed. I have lost sleep many nights, experienced increased anxiety when I had none before, I’ve had more breakdowns than I care to admit, and I’ve all but lost my artist’s creativity because of my immense stress. But I am still here fighting for my chance to regain my livelihood. Are you with me?

 

Citation links:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-ppp-census/nearly-75-of-u-s-small-businesses-sought-help-via-government-ppp-idUSKBN22Q3DU

https://www.businessinsider.com/small-business-ppp-loan-many-thousands-still-waiting-2020-5

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/04/16/coronavirus-small-business-loans

https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-whiplash-jolts-californias-small-businesses-11594829607

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx#COVID-19 by the Numbers

https://www.rosenoirstudio.com/ipcp  - For Rose Noir Infection Prevention and Control Plan

 

453,659 positive case ÷39,510,000 California residents = 1.15% rounded to nearest hundredth

10,361 positive cases in Alameda County ÷1,671,000 resident of Alameda County = .62% rounded to nearest hundredth

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