Missouri Great Clips sites close after virus-related threats

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St. Louis area activist and pastor Rev. Darryl Gray hands boxes of face masks through an open car window to a church representative picking up protective equipment for their congregation, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Hanley Hills, Mo. Gray is one of the organizers behind the effort to distribute about 150,000 masks to churches that plan to open as early as next week as restrictions surrounding the coronavirus outbreak ease. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Great Clips has temporarily closed its salons in Springfield, Missouri, after receiving threatening messages following the news that two of its hairstylists who tested positive for the coronavirus might have exposed 140 clients to the illness.

Great Clips Inc., which has thousands of franchises in the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement Thursday that its locations in Springfield decided to close after “repeated threats.”

“To protect the safety of everyone, the local franchisees made the decision to temporarily close salons in the Springfield area,” the statement read. “They are working closely with law enforcement officials as the officials conduct a thorough investigation of these threats.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how many stores were closed or when they’ll reopen. The company didn’t respond to emails seeking further information.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced last week that a hairstylist at Great Clips served 84 clients over eight days in mid-May while experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

A co-worker of that stylist is now sick, and the health department said 56 other clients were potentially exposed by the second stylist from May 16 to May 20. The health agency said both of those stylists tested positive.

The stylists and all of their clients wore face masks, health officials said. All of the clients were being tested and Goddard said some results were expected to be announced Friday.

Springfield police spokeswoman Jasmine Bailey said the first threat came from a Facebook message to an employee on Saturday. The second threat was phoned to a salon Wednesday.

Bailey said that in both cases, the messages “were threatening to shut the place down” because the stylists potentially exposed people to the virus. She declined to give further details.

Bailey said it was too soon the know if the threats came from the same person.

Salons were allowed to reopen in Missouri under Gov. Mike Parson’s orderthat went into effect May 5, despite concerns from some about the close proximity required for barbers and hairstylists to work with their clients.

In Michigan, an appeals court on Thursday ordered a barber to close and to stop defying that state’s coronavirus restrictions. The barber, 77-year-old Karl Manke, said he didn’t intend to comply.

Greene County, which includes Springfield, has had 128 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths during the pandemic, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

About 27,000 Missourians applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to data released Thursday. Nationally, about 2.1 million Americans applied for benefits, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs, even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees.

Mayor Quinton Lucas announced updated guidelines that relax rules for businesses, the Kansas City Star reported. The new guidance begins Sunday and expires July 5.

Lucas said during a news conference that his order means any Kansas City business can reopen unless barred by state guidelines. He said there is no limit on the size of outdoor gatherings, but indoor gatherings must not exceed 50% of a building’s capacity.

Also in Kansas City, about 30 protesters outside the Jackson County Courthouse staged a “die-in” to raise concerns about evictions during the pandemic.

Tenants urged Presiding Circuit Court Judge David Byrn to extend protections to renters, the Kansas City Starreported. Earlier Thursday, Lucas said his staff had also contacted Byrn’s office, pushing for an extension of the court’s eviction moratorium.

Deaths from the coronavirus in Missouri have topped 700. The state health department on Thursday cited 11 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 707. It also reported 181 new confirmed cases, bringing the state’s total to 12,673.

Parson said he was extending the first phase of his reopening plan through June 15. It was originally scheduled to expire Sunday. He said the decision was not because of any setback but to ensure that the state is ready to move to the next phase.

The first phase of the plan requires social distancing, typically 6 feet of space, though with some exceptions. Some businesses also are required to put limits on indoor occupancy. The governor has not outlined what the next phase will entail.

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Check out more of the AP’s coronavirus coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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