June 2 2020
Currently, under Governor Pritzkers Phase Three guidelines, massage is allowed for no more than 30 minutes, and with appropriate cleaning, PPE and various other safety precautions.
These aren’t mandated guidelines, so much as “expected and encouraged” suggestions to providers in the personal services category. They do not take into account the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19, nor the enclosed environment in which we work. Symptom and temperature screening will not prevent asymptomatic COVID-19 positive people from getting on the massage table, potentially exposing the therapist and making them a vector for any other clients they see long before they would exhibit symptoms.
Even with the suggested use of masks for clients and providers “to the extent possible”, per state guidelines, aerosolized virus simply from regular breathing is still a risk. The guidelines tell us to maintain 6 ft physical distance at all times between ourselves and clients--except for when the service we perform prevents us from doing so. The spread of aerosolized virus is a greater risk when you are within 6 ft of someone, particularly if you are within 6 ft for longer than 15 minutes, even if you are both wearing masks. Obviously the high contact nature of massage therapy being performed in small rooms for an average of 60-90 minutes means that it is impossible to abide by 6 ft physical distancing guidelines, and puts both client and therapist at a higher risk of exposure.
My research into air purifiers shows some positive results, but a $25 HEPA filter purifier from a big box chain store won’t cut it. Those that appear to actually work to exchange air throughout the room, may or may not be able to catch the corona virus, and cost a great deal of money,with still no documented guarantee. The risks still seem too great to rely upon them. I continue to research this. None of the three spaces I work in are able to accommodate full Covid-19 precautions at this time. In a perfect world, I would work in an operating room.
There is evidence that shows blood clotting is a silent symptom of COVID-19. This is particularly relevant as it relates to massage. Even if we follow the state guidelines to have clients screen themselves for symptoms like cough, difficulty breathing, taking temperature, they could show no other signs of symptoms and still be developing silent clotting problems, which massage would dangerously exacerbate.
Many massage therapists echo these same concerns and disagree with having been placed in phase three of reopening, despite our industry representatives in the state working groups voicing these concerns and urging against it. We are concerned for our clients safety as well as our own.
I want you to be informed of what is happening in the massage therapy industry and with these state guidelines, so that you can proceed with caution, understand the risks involved and know that these ‘guidelines’ go against what many in our industry have asked for in protecting public health. These guidelines are not agreed upon by industry professionals, so some providers will open with varying degrees of compliance. No amount of bleaching door handles, disinfecting tables and washing hands eliminates the risk of aerosol exchange.
I believe the risk of performing massage therapy at this time remains the same as it did in mid March, as does my commitment to do no harm. Social distancing has enabled Illinois to reduce need for hospital beds but in no way has the pandemic finished. The great majority of my client base are in high risk groups and live with others who are also high risk, so until we have more information regarding this virus and its lasting effects, particularly as they pertain to massage, I will remain closed so as not to risk public and personal safety.
I do not make any of these decisions lightly. No means no for right now, not forever.I know that some of you are really hurting, and that massage is your lifeline. I hope that this information and perspective proves useful to you and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me privately if you have any questions.