Missouri Great Clips sites close after virus-related threats

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St. Louis area activist and pastor Rev. Darryl Gray hands boxes of face masks through an open car window to a church representative picking up protective equipment for their congregation, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Hanley Hills, Mo. Gray is one of the organizers behind the effort to distribute about 150,000 masks to churches that plan to open as early as next week as restrictions surrounding the coronavirus outbreak ease. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

O'FALLON, Mo. – Great Clips has temporarily closed its salons in Springfield, Missouri, after receiving threatening messages following the news that two of its hairstylists who tested positive for the coronavirus might have exposed 140 clients to the illness.

Great Clips Inc., which has thousands of franchises in the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement Thursday that its locations in Springfield decided to close after “repeated threats.”

“To protect the safety of everyone, the local franchisees made the decision to temporarily close salons in the Springfield area," the statement read. "They are working closely with law enforcement officials as the officials conduct a thorough investigation of these threats.”

It wasn't immediately clear how many stores were closed or when they'll reopen. The company didn't respond to emails seeking further information.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced last week that a hairstylist at Great Clips served 84 clients over eight days in mid-May while experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

A co-worker of that stylist is now sick, and the health department said 56 other clients were potentially exposed by the second stylist from May 16 to May 20. The health agency said both of those stylists tested positive.

The stylists and all of their clients wore face masks, health officials said. All of the clients were being tested and Goddard said some results were expected to be announced Friday.

Springfield police spokeswoman Jasmine Bailey said the first threat came from a Facebook message to an employee on Saturday. The second threat was phoned to a salon Wednesday.