“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in humans,” Sgt. Natalie Seals, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Department of Preventative Medicine, said during a public health training. “There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that cause respiratory illnesses.”
Fort Hood Army and Air Force Exchange Service Barber Shop employees, earned a public health certification, exceeding state protocols, May 13, at the 1st Cav. Express Barber Shop.
“I think that it’s best that we grow and adapt with the times and put the positive changes forward,” Melvin Kessler, general operations manager for AAFES Barber Shops on Fort Hood, said. “Sanitation procedures that are permeant at all my barber shops, are higher than the state protocols.”
During the training, Seals taught the new cleaning, sanitizing and disinfect protocols that each AAFES barber shop employee is now expected to practice indefinitely. One of the new protocols mandates that the barber and the Soldier wear a face mask during service, if the Soldier refuses to wear a mask, service will be refused.
“One of the requirements for military installations for everyone, not just the barbers, is that the people you are servicing dawn a face mask,” Seals said. “We are going to talk about how they can be wore — how you can still cut their hair and if they are wishing to be difficult — there’s the door.”
Face masks are already a requirement to enter public buildings on Fort Hood, where social distancing is difficult to regulate. Many buildings on post are also requiring that each individual apply sanitizer to their hands before entering.
Hands should be washed before and after you use the bathroom, before and after eating, before and after providing service to a customer, and before and after a smoke break, Seals said.
“Is there a procedure for washing your hands and if so, how long is it?” Seals asked the employees during the public health training. “It’s 20 seconds on average.”
As a safety precaution, she also reminded employees to stay home if they feel ill.
“Please stay home if you’re ill — please,” Seals said. “Don’t come in here bringing germs — please, because you’ll infect the person next to you and those besides you and quite possibly a Soldier.”
For the safety of the employee and the safety of the Soldier, the AAFES Barber Shops will report any violations of protocol to the CRDAMC Department of Preventative Medicine.
“As a barber you need to recognize the symptoms,” Seals said. “You have common and then you have serious symptoms.”
No state requires barber shop or salon employees to be certified in public health, Kessler said, but all employees at each of the seven Fort Hood locations are required to recertify every 90 days. Barbers are required to have a barbicide certificate. New employees will also be required to complete the public health training before they begin cutting hair, Kessler said.
“I want Fort Hood to be the example,” Kessler, who’s cut hair for over a decade, said. “I want us to lead by example, saying, ‘Hey, we are making public health certifications.’ They are being offered to all of my employees free of charge. They just have to show up and participate.”
Public health certifications cost between $100 and $200 off post, Kessler said.
“When they see that certification, they know they’re certified in public health,” He said about Soldiers receiving haircut service. “They have a sense of security knowing that they’re walking into the safest and cleanest environment to get their hair cut — to keep up with regs.”
Soldiers are required to follow the appearance and grooming policies of Army Regulation 670-1. Due to AR 670-1, Fort Hood barber shops and salons remained opened throughout the mandatory shutdown.
“On base we can control the public health, off base we can’t,” Kessler said.
As a result, business for the barber shops and salons on the installation increased. Currently, the barber shops on post service between 150 and 300 Soldiers a day. Prior to the pandemic, the barber shops on post were servicing around 150 Soldiers a day, Kessler said.
“We need to ensure that they are taken care of at all times,” Kessler said about Fort Hood Soldiers.
AAFES Barber Shop hours of operation have been extended to keep up with the current demand, call-ahead services are now available and new sanitation and safety protocols have been implemented, said the general operations manager.
In the near future, AAFES Barber Shops also plan to provide an online booking service, in order to decrease wait times, Kessler said.
“We’ve put extra measures in place,” Kessler said about changes made due to the current pandemic. “Just to help mitigate wait times and practice social distancing.”