Massage During a Pandemic: Here's What It Looks Like

Posted on February 28, 2021 by Allissa Haines

Getting a massage, and giving massage, after spending 10 months limiting interaction with other people, seems so….weird. And yet, plenty of massage businesses in Massachusetts have been open and busy since late June. I am so fortunate I was able to sink into this unexpected time off and take an elongated break and also take my time finding a space more suited to current safety protocols. In making the decision to return to work and in choosing this space I consulted multiple resources and created new protocols to meet the current environment.

Here are the outcomes of those efforts:

I’ve studied two guides, FSMTB and Healwell, for best practices for operating a massage business during the pandemic as well as the MA Workplace Safety Standards for Close Contact Workers

I’ve read and watched several interviews with epidemiologists specifically related to massage environments and talked to my own GP about keeping my space safe. The consensus is that masks and ventilation are the key. In my new room, I’ve got an air filter that turns over the air in the room 4-6 times an hour with a filter known to capture SARS microns and presumed to capture this Coronavirus’s particles as well. And I’ve got a window and fan to fully ventilate the massage room between clients. I also installed MERV-13 filters in all the HVAC intakes in the office.

This new office has a private entrance and bathroom and I’m scheduling more time between clients to ventilate with windows and fans and to clean the massage room, bathroom and reception area with an EPA approved hydrogen peroxide-based cleaner.

Want to talk about dwell time (the amount of time disinfectants need to remain wet on surfaces to properly disinfect)? CADR (clean air delivery rate)? Mask protocols? Donning and doffing scrubs? I’m your girl! Actually, I’m not. Because we know that talking increases the amount of aerosol emission, so we’re going to keep that to a minimum in the massage room.

The MA Safety Standards mean your massage will look a little different for awhile. Masks are required 100% of the time for both the client and the practitioner. I wear a fresh new shirt for every client. So fancy! I'll also be asking to spray your hands with sanitizer as you enter the office. 

I’m asking clients to pay for appointments via the button in the reminder emails to cut down on us touching the same devices, pens, money, etc. after your appointment. If you prefer to pay with cash or check, please have exact change or the check prewritten and that’s just fine, too.

I won’t be offering you water after your appointment anymore, but you can bring your own if you like! That’s about all the change you’ll notice on your end.

What you can do to keep us safe

I want to be safe, and I want my clients to be safe. Many of my clients are immune-compromised, have a history of cancer, and/or are over age 60. It's my job to protect them, and it's your job to protect me.

Please cancel your appointment if you or anyone in your house has been ill or if you know or suspect you have been exposed.

Please cancel if you have traveled outside of MA to any of the states not considered Low Risk in the 2 weeks before your appointment.

Please do not schedule a massage if you have participated in higher risk activities like socializing indoors without masks, attending large events and hugging people you don't live with, eating indoors with people you don't live with etc. etc. You get the idea. If you're living on the pandemic edge, maybe now is not a good time for a massage with me, okay?

Action Plan for Possible Exposure

I firmly believe that any business open should have a ‘What If?” plan in place. Here’s mine:

In the event that I know or suspect I have been exposed to COVID-19, I will cancel all appointments and self-isolate until I can obtain testing and have been confirmed negative.

If a client calls to report that they have tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of their massage session, I will contact all clients seen in that window and self-isolate until I can obtain testing and be cleared of infection.

In the event that I test positive for COVID-19, I will inform all clients from the previous 14 days and self-isolate until I can be cleared of infection.

In the event that YOU test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after your session, please contact me as soon as possible so that I may self-isolate and get tested. 

I don't know what the next year is going to look like

Really, I don't know what the next month will look like. If rates in Massachusetts spike again I'll shut down, just like I did after the holidays, even if the state doesn't require me to. 

We're all in this together. We'll navigate as we go, and I'll do my best to make decisions that keep massage as safe as it can be for all of us.