In the last few weeks so much has changed in our world as a whole and in the world of massage.

What has stayed consistent is the need to protect each other from transmission of the virus. Currently, Washington state is still under a stay-at-home order and massage, except in very rare cases, is not an essential service. While this order is in place Bellingham Massage Clinic remains closed.

How will massage be able to resume?

Massage therapists in Washington state will be required to abide by certain precautions including but not limited to: using PPE and requiring our clients to cover their nose and mouths with some form of a mask, more frequent cleaning, and the use of specific cleaners that are known to kill this novel coronavirus, and much more to be expounded upon in a later post. Because of the unique nature of massage it is very important that these guidelines be followed. Bellingham Massage Clinic will not make exceptions under any circumstances.

Governor Inslee’s Reopening Plan

The “opening” of Washington state will (thankfully) not be done lightly or overnight; science and data will be the guide. You can read more about it here. Within the plan there are phases for different types of business  / activities and when they will be allowed to resume.

In what phase does massage fit?

Here’s the challenge: massage is not explicitly mentioned in the re-opening plan and it is a field that is significantly different from many others:

  • It is different from hair stylists and nail salons which will be allowed to open in Phase 2 because massage therapists spend significant time in a closed room and often these rooms do not have good ventilation. We cannot just leave doors and windows open due to privacy needs.
  • It is impossible to observe social distancing.

Where does that leave us?

We all must remain adaptive, ready to change when new things are learned about the virus, the disease it causes, the effects of the disease, and it’s transmission. Here is what I know will change with my practice:

  • No one who is even mildly sick can get massage, this includes if someone has “just a cold.” We no longer know it’s “just a cold.”
  • Gloves will be the new norm. Gloves are an important part of PPE and will be worn for ALL massages. Unfortunately, since gloves cover only hands, the usual tools of the massage trade such as forearms and elbows will not be safe to use. Massage will feel different.
  • Masks will stay a part of life including when someone is getting  / giving a massage.
  • Other PPE such as face shields or goggles will become the new norm as well.
  • All surfaces will be wiped down with approved cleaner between massages and extra time will be added to allow for effective cleaning.
  • Changes of clothes: I (and all other massage therapists) will be figuring out our new massaging wardrobe. This might mean a switch to scrubs and will require changing between each massage.

And finally, a more personal note:

Please take this seriously. This virus is deadly for some and not enough is known about it to know exactly who that is. Risking someone else’s life is not acceptable. Beyond that, if someone is diagnosed with Covid-19 that person (and their family) then has to shoulder the costs of medical care and loss of income, including the worst case scenarios. One thing that I think the pandemic has finally brought to light to more people is how selfish it is to share one’s germs. I have had a policy of allowing for illness related late cancellations without fees for years now to combat my own loss of income (as well as protect my family, see below). The reality was that a couple of cancellations in a month were easier to handle than loosing whole days or weeks because I caught whatever illness a sick client had. This is more important now than ever before.

And finally: I am married to someone with a chronic illness who does not respond to even a “cold” like a normal,  healthy person. We do not know how he would handle being ill with Covid-19. I will not tolerate the flouting of the Department of Health’s or my own guidelines. I can and will refuse business to anyone who does not respect them. I will not put myself and thus him at unnecessary risk just because someone wants a massage and doesn’t take this pandemic seriously for themselves. There will be no negotiations or bending of rules. 

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