Corona fatigue is hitting many Americans, and who can blame them? With nearly a full year of lock-downs and quarantines, it is normal to feel sick of mask wearing, social distancing, and other safety precautions. Throw in the fact that many still await vaccines, and it’s no surprise that people are tempted to relax pandemic boundaries. Yet health officials tell us the virus rages on, with nearly two thousand Americans dying every day from COVID-related illnesses, and new COVID variants found in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. The bottom line? It’s still not time to let down your guards protecting your clinic, your clients, and LMTs. Let’s examine how to stay strong in your COVID-19 practices this spring. Read on for a review of massage therapy Coronavirus safety protocols, including cleaning and sanitizing, requiring and wearing masks, signage and communication, and patiencemaintaining practices.
Massage Therapy in Oregon: Extended State of Emergency, Slow Reopening in Portland
Governor Kate Brown recently extended the State of Emergency in Oregon through May 2nd, and many counties in the state still face extensive restrictions. Multnomah County, home of our massage school in Portland, OR, recently moved from “Extreme Risk” to “High Risk” to “Moderate Risk.” For Portlanders, this means that indoor dining and gyms are open at 50% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is smaller. However, the step down in the risk category does not change the need to wear masks, wash hands, and social distance, particularly with many unknowns about COVID variants. Oregon massage therapists and other personal service providers remain under strict operation conditions.
Other areas in Oregon, including Benton, Jefferson, Josephine, and Coos counties, are still in the “Extreme Risk” category, with the most intense lockdown measures in place. As we grapple with the exhaustion of COVID restrictions, it’s good to remember that the virus is still present in our communities. As Governor Brown reminded during a recent press conference, when she first instituted a statewide emergency in March of 2020, there were 14 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the state. As of March 1st, there are about 275 new cases of Coronavirus reported in the state every day.
Safely Providing Oregon Massage Therapy during the Coronavirus Pandemic
The state continues to require strict safety guidelines for massage therapy services, including:
Screening Clients and Keeping Records of Massage Appointments. Client screening questionnaires prevent infected individuals from entering clinics, thereby reducing exposure. In the case of infections, records of massage services will help with contact tracing. LMTs and clinic workers with symptoms are not allowed to work.
Wearing Masks Throughout the Visit. Masks are required from the minute the client steps into your establishment to after they walk out your door. To reopen to the public, therapy providers must have masks available for clients. The LMT Therapists must also wear a mask throughout treatment.
In our Portland, Oregon massage clinic, we also provide an extra layer of protection in the form of a pillowcase-like cloth bag underneath the face cradle, as well as a second mask to wear when the client is facing up.
Social Distancing is another Coronavirus safety protocol that must be followed in massage therapy facilities. While it is impossible for the therapist to stay six feet away from the client while providing massage, it is possible to avoid close contact at other moments. For instance, clients can wait in their cars to be called in for their appointment if lobby areas are too tight to allow proper social distancing. At least six feet of distance should be maintained between clients at all times.
One LMT per Client. Prior to the pandemic, a spa might move clients from one therapist to another during a series of treatments. This arrangement is not permitted during the Coronavirus crisis. Instead, each client should see only one client per visit.
Prepare Client-Facing Areas. All unnecessary items should be removed from waiting areas. For instance, snacks and magazines should not be present, to prevent clients from handling shared materials. Additionally, service providers must hang informational signage on Covid symptoms and best practices.
Clean and Disinfect all treatment room surfaces regularly. High-touch hard surfaces, such as door handles and countertops, should also be cleaned and disinfected routinely.
These are the main requirements for personal services providers who wish to operate during ongoing Covid restrictions. However, there are many more stipulations required by the state, as outlined in Phase One Reopening Guidance for Personal Services in Oregon.
There is some positive news for massage therapists in the Beaver State. Until the State of Emergency is rescinded, the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists has relaxed requirements for Oregon massage license renewal during the COVID crisis. What’s more, as they are listed in Phase 1a, massage therapists are now eligible to receive COVID vaccines. (To get started with your vaccine getvaccinated.oregon.gov.)
While pandemic protocols were almost certainly not something most prospective LMT dreamed of when contemplating how to become a massage therapist, today’s massage therapy students are deeply aware of safe operation standards. If you are in need of healing touch during the pandemic, you can feel safe making an appointment with Our Massage Clinic. And if the pandemic has shifted your professional plans, we encourage you to consider massage therapy as a flexible, rewarding career. Get in touch with our Admissions Team to learn more about earning your massage therapy licensure through East West College of the Healing Arts.