We know that when for non-essential workers in the beauty and hair industry, to close their shops during this time is very serious. As a group of Black barbers told CBS-Albany last month, not cutting hair means “we don’t eat.” But one Mississippi barber who tried to hold on to his business to make ends meet may have lost his life because of it.
According to WLBT, on Saturday, Eugene Thompson, from Brookhaven, died a few days past his 46th birthday. While there have been some conflicting reports saying he took clients during the pandemic, what is clear is that Thompson was clear that quarantining was necessary and that he closed down his shops, Taper Nation and Taper Nation 2, for a week because he was sick.
“Quarantine yourself stay away from people…places.. or things…I felt a little [achy]… fever was a little high so I came to get checked,” Thompson wrote at the time. “Tapernation will be closed for the rest of the week…well deserved rest and relaxation..,” Thompson wrote on Facebook on March 17 with a picture of him in a mask.
Somehow between then and March 22, it’s believed that he contracted the deadly coronavirus.
He couldn’t get up and walk to the car, not walk around the house cause he couldn’t do that anyway,” his sister, Dedra Edwards recently told WJTV. “At 12:22 p.m. the nurse practitioner in the ICU at St. Dominic called me and said his heart stopped and we couldn’t revive him.”
“Our last memory of him is getting on the ambulance,” she added. “We weren’t able to say goodbye, he was alone my brother was all by himself.”
After testing positive, Deadre stresses that her brother “immediately followed the guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” yet, to days later he was in the hospital fighting for his life.
His family wants for people to understand that this virus is serious and that social distancing is necessary in order to survive this pandemic.
“Everybody before you go outside, or before you decide to go to your friends house make sure before you make that decision you know going outside that door could very well kill you, your children, or your parents,” said Dedra.
Thompson will be remembered as jokester, a loving man and a community hero.
“There’s a lot of people, kids and adults that he cut for free that didn’t have the money and I was one of them,” said Shanta Harris, a customer and friend.
“A great icon. He touched so many people’s lives here. And other places as well,” said his cousin Teegie Hargro.
While some outlets have alluded that Thompson kept doing hair in the pandemic despite warnings of the importance of social distancing, it’s important to point out that during this time, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves had not enforced a statewide lockdown on businesses or enforced a mandatory shelter-in-place order until April 3, weeks after states like Illinois, California and New York already had theirs in place.
This is weeks of Reeves putting his own state in jeopardy because he initially said that Mississippi was “not China.” Meanwhile, lives like Eugene’s were lost.