Life in the era of the novel coronavirus would have been unrecognizable ten days ago. Day by day, we are witnessing enormous shifts, from how we greet others to employment prospects. To date, almost 400,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across the globe, with nearly 16,500 deaths. To “flatten the curve,” i.e. slow the rate of infection, many leaders are limiting interactions through social distancing measures. Here in Oregon, the governor has just announced a “Stay Home” executive order which closes all gyms, day spas, fitness studios, and “non-medical massage therapy services.” Clearly, life is changing rapidly for all Americans, and particularly for massage therapists, who now find themselves out of work.
As a Portland massage therapist school, we have always put people first; the well-being of our students, alumni, and clients is our top priority. To that end, we are providing this massage-centric update on COVID-19. Stay tuned to this blog for ongoing updates and support.
Financial Relief Resources for COVID-19
The federal government has allowed states to change their unemployment insurance benefits in the face of the novel Coronavirus. Oregon’s information page on COVID-19 related layoffs, closures, and unemployment insurance benefits states that workers do not have to meet the typical requirement of looking for another job, assuming their employer expects to reopen. When filing an online claim for Oregon unemployment, you can bypass the work search section by marking the temporary layoff option. The state advises you to keep a log of your job search efforts in case it is needed later.
Find unemployment information in other states here.
Small Business Loans
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans to small businesses who have suffered economic damages from declared disasters. Oregon’s COVID-19 disaster declaration was announced on January 31st, so Oregon-based businesses of massage, Portland to Astoria, are eligible to apply for assistance, here. Expect slow site operation; there is a high demand for assistance and high traffic rates. If you can’t get through during normal business hours, the SBA advises that you try non-peak hours, from 7:00pm-7:00am Eastern time, or 4:00pm-4:00am Pacific time.
For massage small businesses located in other states, the same general procedure applies; first, check the SBA’s site to see if your area has been included in COVID-19 disaster declarations, then apply for a loan, and finally continue logging into the SBA’s site to check on your loan’s status.
National Massage Exams Cancelled
For those currently enrolled in massage therapist school, the novel coronavirus has drastically altered their scheduling expectations, including signing up for national massage exams. Both MBLEx and NCBTMB exams scheduled for this spring have been cancelled.
The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards has stopped issuing testing authorizations, and all testing centers are currently closed. When the centers reopen, candidates who had already been authorized for testing will have 90-days to reschedule their appointment. No fees will be charged for rescheduling, and a price increase will NOT go into effect on April 1st, as planned. Find more information on the MBLEx here.
All NCTMB test centers in the US and Canada have been closed from March 18-April 15. Those who were scheduled to take the exam during this period should have already received an email notification to reschedule, typically 45 days into the future, at no fee. Prometric, who implements the NCTMB exam, may extend the closure date if needed. Find more information from Prometric here.
Reliable COVID-19 Health Information is best obtained through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
For more information on each state during the coronavirus, check out the AMTA’s state landing pages, including a link to the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 updates, here.
We wish all of you peace and comfort in these challenging times. Take care of yourself and your family and get plenty of rest. For the health of our staff, students, alumni, and the extended community, our campus store and massage clinic are currently closed. Our staff is working remotely through March 31st, and may be contacted via email or phone. Stay tuned to this page for ongoing updates catered specifically for the massage community.