Regina barber in 14-day isolation despite negative test and minimal exposure

A local barber is out of work for two weeks after he said he did everything by the book, but it still wasn’t enough to protect him from self-isolation after a COVID-19 exposure.

Randy Huhtala is stuck spending his days away from the barber shop he works at after he trimmed the beard of a customer that later found out they were exposed to COVID-19. Huhtala was wearing all the PPE required for a barber, but had to remove the customer’s mask in order to trim their facial hair.

For contact identification, the government uses a period of 15 cumulative minutes over 24 hours to distinguish between brief and prolonged exposure.

Huhtala said he wasn’t sure how long the customer had their mask off at first, but later confirmed it was less than 15 minutes. The Saskatchewan Health Authority required him to get tested and isolate for two weeks. He later found out his test results are negative, but is still required to isolate for two weeks.

“There was not enough time for me to be exposed for 15 minutes. It was just a maybe a five or seven, eight minute beard trim, perhaps,” Huhtala said.

In an email, the Ministry of Health said it is “unable to comment on each specific individual circumstance.”

The Ministry said exposure and isolation requirements are determined in each case, with multiple criteria considered.

“These include but are not limited to proximity, duration, respiratory effort, mask use and/or PPE use. Public health will apply a risk assessment that minimizes disease transmission,” the email said.

Huhtala said in November when staff were wearing masks but customers were not yet, some of the shops employees were exposed to COVID-19, and no transmission to customers occurred.

“We’re all wearing masks and following the proper protocols, and I’m wearing goggles and aprons and masks obviously work,” Huhtala said.

The whole ordeal has forced Huhtala to wonder if the province should review who is prioritized for vaccines.

“We have teachers, we have grocery store workers, we have barbers, we have daycare workers. There’s a lot of these people that should be prioritized if we’re allowed to be working,” Huhtala said.

“Saskatchewan’s vaccine prioritization was built on age as the number one risk factor for severe outcomes, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19. People of advanced age are more likely to be clinically extremely vulnerable or living with other chronic conditions. Additional and evolving risk factors, vaccine availability, and the necessary criteria to support rapid vaccine administration are all under continual evaluation,” the Ministry said in an email.

The Ministry said it will announce if a change is made to vaccine prioritization in Saskatchewan.