Billings - Rising Covid-19 cases, more deaths, and a debate that’s currently challenging our educators, lawmakers, and leaders across the state – mandatory mask wearing.
As that discussion continues, Billings licensed esthetician Wilona Betzen says she will stand by her preferred protocol to protect her people.
“I want my clients to feel safe when they come see me for services,” said Betzen, who’s been giving facials, providing chemical peels, and waxing clients for 18 years.
“I have a lot of clients over the age of 60. A lot of them weren’t coming in when we first came back to the salon, because they were scared.”
She says some were scared to enter any business that wasn’t requiring a mask. So, in the midst of Covid in 2020, Betzen moved to a private location and made a checklist.
Clients text her when they arrive, and she texts them to enter after she’s disinfected the room- but only the client is allowed inside, and only if they’re wearing a mask.
She explained, “I'm immunocompromised, and I have heart condition, and I also want to protect myself as well.”
Betzen said she’s lost one or two clients due to the strict protocols and has faced a few challenges. One, just recently.
Betzen put her hand to her mask and motioned. “The first thing she did is that she tugged on her mask,” referring to her former client, “'Do I really need to wear this?'” Well, yeah, you do need to wear it. It's not only to protect you but to protect me.”
And luck would have it, four days later that client announced on social media that she was Covid positive and very sick.
A moment of relief and satisfaction for this small business owner. “And that was something that it just hit home to me why I do this. And why I'm going to continue to do it until we get a handle on this.”
Betzen did wonder why she had not received a call from the Yellowstone County health department. She asked if RiverStone was still contact tracing.
The answer is yes, but as Deputy Health Officer Shawn Hinz said, those people who test positive must be the first to cooperate.
“While a number of people are still very responsive to our case investigators calling and following up with those close contacts,” said Hinz, “There are also a fair number of people that are just saying, 'I'm not going to participate.'”
So the risk is that some people will never know they’ve even been exposed, which is a line of frustration for Betzen and a lot of her clients she’s trying to protect.
Janine Hudiburgh is one of those clients, and she too has heart and immunity issues. So as soon as she could get the vaccination, she did.
“I don't like wearing a mask, but I have grandchildren, and they can't get vaccinated. I don't want to get anything and give it to them. And I don't want to not be able to see them. So wearing a mask is a small price to pay.”
Betzen said she doesn’t ask her clients if they’ve been vaccinated, she just trusts them to follow her protocols, and hopes her explanation as to why will keep her clients from getting sick or going somewhere else.
“I don't think I will lose. I really don't,” she said, “because I think people have empathy and they understand if you have had health issues, they are empathetic to that and they will follow the guidelines."