Jennifer McKelly was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March and endured a difficult recovery, one that kept her quarantined for a number of weeks.
But McKelly recovered and was cleared, in April, to get out of quarantine and resume a normal life. She has even donated plasma for people currently suffering from the illness, which required her to have an additional COVID test that also came back negative.
Recently, McKelly said she was surprised when she was turned away after trying to get a haircut at a Great Clips store on Villa Point.
“I was just so thrown off,” McKelly said.
Great Clips, which is a national chain, doesn’t deny the incident occurred. In a prepared statement sent on behalf of the franchise owner of the Villa Point store, a Great Clips spokeswoman said the stores are following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kentucky Board of Cosmetology.
The Green River District Health Department, however, said people released from quarantine can resume normal activities, with the same precautions recommended for everyone else.
McKelly said she was exposed while working with a school meal delivery program. “Myself and another bus driver were the ones exposed,” McKelly said. “We were exposed by another employee who was asymptomatic and didn’t even know.”
After McKelly became ill, she was tested positive for COVID-19. “It was horrible, I’m not going to lie,” she said.
“From what I understand, it’s different for everybody,” she said. “For me, it was like the flu, but 10 times worse. The body aches are horrible, and you have absolutely no energy. It drains you.”
McKelly said she was in quarantine about 28 days from her first exposure to the virus. The daily routine while quarantined required taking her temperature and reporting her symptoms to the health department.
After meeting the requirement to be completely fever and symptom-free for three days without having to take any fever-reducing medication, McKelly was released from quarantine in April. She received a letter saying she was formally released, and later had a negative test result when she was tested before being able to donate plasma.
At the Great Clips store on Saturday, McKelly said she was greeted at the door by an employee. “She said, ‘I’ll take your temperature and I have three screening questions,’ ” McKelly said. “The first question was, have you been exposed or have you been around anyone with COVID-19.
“I said, ‘I had it in March,’ ” McKelly said, and she was told, “ ‘We can’t provide you services.’
“I’d gone to the dentist the week before and wasn’t asked those questions,” McKelly said, and had her regular doctor’s appointment as well with no difficulties.
“Had I known that was a question, I probably would have just lied and said, ‘no,’ ” McKelly said.
“They don’t (ask screening questions) in flu season,” McKelly said.
A statement was sent for Great Clips on behalf of Shear Force Enterprises, co-owner and franchisee of the Owensboro salons.
“As my staff and I welcome customers back to Owensboro Great Clips salons, the well-being of my customers, stylists and staff is my top priority,” the statement said. “I am reopening salons based on guidance from the CDC, the state of Kentucky and the Kentucky Board of Cosmetology and continue to follow their guidance and all requirements around sanitization, cleaning and social distancing. This includes asking screening questions of all customers who come to the salon.
“The Kentucky Board of Cosmetology requires all salons to ask each customer who enters the salon establishment questions related to if the customer has had a cough or fever, has been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days, or is living with anyone who is sick or quarantined.”
The statement said: “I want customers to feel welcome and comfortable in my salons. If anyone is unable to come to the salon now due to positive answers to these questions, I hope we can welcome them to the salon once they are able to do so under board guidelines.”
The state board of cosmetology’s guidelines for reopening say customers entering salons should be asked the screening questions in the Great Clips statement. The board of cosmetology guidelines say: “The goal is to treat all patrons (many of whom may be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic) as though they are sick.”
The cosmetology board guidelines are lengthy and cover disinfection of work and reception areas, personal protective equipment and sending employees or customers away if they have a temperature above 99 degrees. The cosmetology board says the guidelines must be followed “continuously, every time, in every place, for everyone,” and says salon owners may implement their own protocol to supplement the guidelines.
McKelly said she had tested negative since recovering from the virus, and said she felt singled out.
“I feel like it’s going to (happen) at other places as well, she said.
Clay Horton, director of the Green River District Health Department, said “once you’re symptom-free for three days, you’re free from isolation.” People who have recovered from COVID-19 should do the same as is recommended to everyone else: wear face coverings, wash and sanitize hands frequently and practice social distancing, Horton said.
“We’ve fielded questions from employers .. but I haven’t heard of anyone being refused service” after recovering from the virus, Horton said. When someone is released from isolation, “the idea (is) they are no longer infectious,” Horton said.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse