Non-essential businesses throughout Virginia will remain closed until May 8 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday a two-week extension of Executive Order 53, which was issued on March 23 and set to expire on April 23.

“As we have seen from our data and models, social distancing is working, and we are slowing the spread of this virus,” Northam said, in a news release issued by his office on Wednesday. “But it is too early to let up. By extending this order to keep certain businesses closed or restricted, we can continue to evaluate the situation and plan for how to eventually ease restrictions so that our businesses may operate without endangering public health.”

Hair salons are among the businesses included in the Executive Order. Local hairstylists say they respect the governor’s decision, but they are looking forward to returning to work after the nearly seven-week hiatus.

“I’m tremendously looking forward to it,” said Karyn Johnson, a hairstylist at Visionz Hair Studio in South Boston. “I’m a busy stylist anyway. I typically work 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, but I think I’m going to do 7 or 8 a.m. until midnight that Friday and Saturday just to catch up and work Monday through Saturday that next week.”

Johnson said she had even been contacted by clients who told her they would be willing to come into the salon at midnight on May 7 — the second the Executive Order expires — to get their hair done.

“I’ve got a good clientele,” Johnson said. “They have been sending me kind words. I’ve had people prepaying for appointments. They’ve been understanding about rescheduling their appointments, saying, ‘whenever you can get me in, no rush.’”

Johnson added that while she respects the governor’s opinion to keep salons closed a couple of weeks longer, keeping the doors to her business closed has been difficult financially because she has not yet started receiving unemployment benefits. The hairstylist and trainer at Adams Total Fitness said being at home and not having a schedule has been a major adjustment for her. Fitness centers also were mandated by the Executive Order to close.

“I’ve worked at least two jobs since I was 17, so being told I couldn’t work was devastating,” Johnson said. “But I have enjoyed being at home and spending time with my 4-year-old son.”

Another South Boston hairstylist, Tammie Barksdale, also said being temporarily unemployed has been difficult, and she looks forward to returning to work at Turn’n Headz Salon on Edmunds Street.

“I can’t say that I’m happy being at home and unemployed. The self employed are at a standstill because right now we don’t have any way to make money and if we do, we are no longer eligible for unemployment,” Barksdale said.

At the same time, she said she understands why salons need to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel that the governor has made the right decision,” Barksdale said. “We cannot flatten the curve if everyone is still going about their daily routine. Yes, we all need to work, but we all need to live, also.”

Barksdale looks forward to returning to her clients — and her work family, salon owners Tanya Gillespie and Brittany Comer.

“I love my clients, and every day, I get texts and calls to see how I’m doing and telling me how much they miss me. I love knowing that they’re thinking of us,” Barksdale said.

The hairstylist said she expects the salon to be “super busy” when they reopen and highly anticipates the salon’s reopening.

“I’m really excited and impatient,” Barksdale shared.

Indoor entertainment centers also are included in Executive Order 53. World of Sports, an entertainment venue in South Boston that boasts a movie theater, bowling alley, go kart racing, laser tag and arcade-style games, is preparing for a grand reopening after being closed since the week of March 17.

“Since the governor closed non-essential businesses, we’ve done our best to comply, but we’ve been planning for a grand reopening,” said World of Sports owner Jay Burnett. “We look forward to being open sooner rather than later.”

Since the indoor entertainment center has been closed, Burnett said staff has been cleaning the facility, doing maintenance work and making plans centered around making World of Sports a “safe place to recreate for our customers, guests and team.

“We want our guests to know that we are taking their safety seriously,” Burnett said. “We have been developing a program where customers can plan their entire visit here online, so they aren’t waiting in line. They can book a session of go karting or laser tag.”

World of Sports also will have tape and markers in place to direct customers to maintain social distancing (six feet of space in between each other) while engaging in recreation.

Burnett added that although the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, including businesses, he believes, “We need to work through this together, as a community.”

Among the other non-essential businesses included in Executive Order 53 are racetracks, theaters and performing arts centers, museums, dining rooms of restaurants, tanning salons, massage parlors and tattoo shops.

Although Executive Order 53 expires on May 8, Executive Order 55, which directs Virginians to stay home unless they must go out for essential services, remains in effect until June 10.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at