I can chart the past three months of sheltering in place on my nails. Since my last manicure in early March, my nails have sported gel polish, grown out gel polish, truly unsightly gel scraps, a hasty coat of solid polish, an Olive & June rainbow gradient, sloppy paperclip polka dots, and now, finally, some pretty decent DIY geometric nail art. Each time I spill nail polish remover or accidentally swipe polish way outside the nail bed, I find myself daydreaming about the day when nail salons are open and seeing customers once again. In Colorado, Georgia, Ohio, and more states, that day has arrived, while salon owners in New York and California wait for a late-phase reopening. Even if you can’t wait to book that first professional post-quarantine manicure, it’s clear that the nail salons that managed to survive the pandemic will look very different than we left them.Manicures and pedicures, like so many other beauty services, require close physical contact for a sustained amount of time. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance specifically designated for nail salon workers states that “as a nail salon employee, you might come into contact with the virus that causes COVID-19 at your job by being in close contact with clients or coworkers for more than 15 minutes at a time.” The guidance goes on to state the inevitable: “jobs like manicures, pedicures, and acrylic nails will place you in close contact with clients.”For Bertha P., a nail technician at Sundays in New York City, the need for income outweighs the intense health concerns of returning to the salon. Bertha has used her savings to stay afloat since she last worked in March, while family members around her have fallen ill with COVID-19. “I was saving for my kids to go to college, but now I’ve been using [that money],” she says. In addition, Bertha is immunocompromised. Still, she’ll be going back to Sundays as soon as the doors reopen. “My doctor told me if I catch the virus, it’s probably a nine percent survival rate. [Returning to work] is very scary, because my system isn’t good. I thought about applying to a different job, but every job has a risk.”The Nail Industry & COVID-19When nail salons shuttered across the country, some studio owners looked to alternate business models to stay afloat. Studios like Sundays and Chicago’s Pear Nova shifted gears to e-commerce, selling branded polish, manicure kits, or even virtual classes. Pear Nova owner Rachel James says some nail techs sold their own hand-painted press-on nails throughout the studio closure, or survived on “stimulus checks, generous tips from our regulars, and a percentage of sales from Pear Nova [e-commerce].” Others started GoFundMe campaigns to help pay employees and keep up with rent.