For the past few weeks, social distancing is a term that’s been seared into people’s minds nationwide. People have repeatedly been told to maintain at least six feet from fellow citizens in order to lessen the chance of spreading the coronavirus, along with taking extra care of personal hygiene.

On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper issued a directive ordering businesses where individuals are in close proximity for extended periods of time to close by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Included in the order are tattoo shops, barber shops, nail salons and massage parlors.

Among those are some who literally make art by human contact. Tattoo artists operate in a close-quarters industry that takes anywhere from a few minutes to hours to complete a design on someone’s body. Now those artists’ workflow is being seriously impacted by recommendations health officials and orders from the state.

Brenda Foster owns Tattoos by R.C. located on Shelton Avenue in between Statesville and Troutman. She said she closed the shop March 17 when she saw the order from Cooper’s office limiting restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery services.

“Nobody absolutely needs a tattoo,” she said Wednesday. “(Tattooing) has been my business for 30 years and I know it’s not a needed commodity.”

Foster also said she’s lucky that her husband is the only artist at Tattoos by R.C., so they’re in a better position to weather the pandemic than most.

“We can close and it may be a hardship, but our hardship is worth the safety of our clients and ourselves,” she said.

Leading up to Wednesday afternoon, Light Side Tattoo & Piercings owner Tim Witmer said he was fortunate enough to see his staff have relatively full schedules.

“It’s tax season,” he said. “Tax season is a big time of year for tattoo studios (because) people have got money to burn.”

In a March 18 Facebook post, the tattoo parlor said it was asking anyone who was sick or showing cold symptoms not to enter the shop in order to help combat the spread of COVID-19. The post also stated the shop would not be taking in walk-in appointments, and asked people with appointments to come by themselves and not bring guests.

And even though Cooper’s orders are leaving Light Side’s staff out of the job for an indefinite amount of time, Witmer said he agreed with governor’s decision and called the coronavirus a serious problem.

Witmer added he’s planning on the spending the time off at home with his son.

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