Until Masks Are Extra

June 23, 2020  |  Comments are off

Clients ask us: When will you reopen?

Photo by Jerome Dominici

I wish I knew. Every day, I miss our work providing you with hands-on comfort care. Every day, I remind myself that the pandemic is not forever and that until the threat passes, we must wait.

How will we know when it is again safe to do up to ninety minutes of close-contact work in enclosed spaces? For now, we know this kind of work is high-risk for virus transmission—even with clients and practitioners masked and surfaces regularly disinfected.

Yet Vermont’s numbers are good compared with many other states. Among a population of 624,000, Vermont has reported fifty-six COVID-19 deaths as of June 19. It makes sense that Vermonters feel more confident about getting massage or resuming their work as touch practitioners than they might in other states.

Somewhat comparably, Nova Scotia, Canada, recently reported its sixty-third COVID-19 death with no new cases among population of about a million people. Nova Scotia’s massage therapists are, with great caution and PPE, returning to work. But Nova Scotia has an area more than twice the square miles of Vermont’s. Vermont lacks Nova Scotia’s natural watery boundaries to limit the influx of people arriving carrying the virus, and countless carriers are asymptomatic, presymptomatic, or symptomatic without realizing they have the novel coronavirus. And Vermont is in the US, which lacks any national pandemic strategy.

When will we resume seeing clients? When Vermont has months with no community spread of COVID-19, when surrounding states and the nation are seeing far fewer new cases and deaths, we’ll talk.

When we have no new cases or deaths, using masks and disinfecting surfaces will become extra layers of protection. For now, though, those precautions would be the only thing between us and the virus, literally. In current pandemic conditions, there’s no reliable data showing these measures are sufficient protection when breathing together in small rooms for thirty to ninety minutes at a time.

Australia, unlike the US, has the virus mostly under control and the country is well prepared for outbreaks. Australia continues to advise massage therapists practice with great caution. In the US, we’re not there yet.

And while money isn’t everything, money matters. Like the vast majority of massage and touch practitioners, our professional liability insurance specifically excludes claims arising from transmissible disease. If a client developed COVID-19 and sued us, even if they didn’t contract the virus here and even if they lost their case, we would be financially ruined. We are not going there. Would you really ask us to?

We agree with this piece by a Massachusetts colleague.

As always, my enduring gratitude flows to my dear friend and bodywork colleague Rhonda Henry. As so often happens, our ongoing conversation, which began twenty years ago, inspired this post.