Dear ABMP members,
Thank you for reaching out to us over the past couple of days as COVID-19 escalates. Last week, our conversations circulated around massage therapy hygiene protocols and ensuring safe space for clients. Today, waves of heightened CDC warnings, associated closures, and suspensions are prompting many massage therapists and bodyworkers to temporarily shutter their practices. They want to ensure their safety and that of their clients. We understand and support their decisions.
It’s always been ABMP’s mission to support practitioners wherever, however, and whenever they want to manifest their skills. However, we are in a unique time in our country; taking precautions aren’t enough in this environment. We strongly encourage you to suspend your practice on a short-term, temporary basis. Given the virulence of the virus, and the general sense of fear in the population, you may not have a choice—either by government decree or the reality of vanishing demand. And please read what Ruth Werner has to say at the end of this note.
This time is daunting in several respects. None of us have any idea how long closures, isolations, and suspensions will last, and how long it will take the virus to run its course in the United States, let alone the world.
Through this, please remember your dedication to your profession and your clients; now is the time to practice physical and mental self-care. Remain positive and informed to the best of your ability. Reflect on the good work you’ve done. Hold close your success stories. Give yourself space and time to work on your practice wish list. Polish your treatment space. During your self-distancing, take advantage of the free online continuing education that’s part of your ABMP membership. Revamp your dream list for marketing your practice. Recall what drew you to the profession and what you love about it. When this coronavirus veil lifts, your clients will need your supportive, therapeutic massage sessions more than ever.
Do your best to avoid panic at this point. Focus on the things you can change: your actions, decisions, and responses. Those you have control over.
As states and the nation trigger emergency operations, know those make way for key funding for maintenance and recovery initiatives. It’s too early to know how individual business owners will be able to access that funding, but stay tuned to your state and county departments of public health websites for evolving information and, of course, the US Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).
ABMP will continue to update our members about ways they can take advantage of any relief opportunities created in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and, as always, we will continue to offer excellent service to our members, striving to live up to our motto: expectmore.
Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
If you have ideas for ways that the profession can support our community and one another during this time, please share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Following is a message from our Massage & Bodywork columnist and Pocket Pathology partner Ruth Werner and her own advice for the profession.
Ignore My Earlier Advice. Shut It Down.
By Ruth Werner
My friends and colleagues, it’s time to shut it down. It’s past time to shut it down.
I wrote a piece two weeks ago that provided some ideas about how to take care of your practice, assuming you were still seeing clients. I hereby rescind that advice, and I apologize to anyone who was misled.
Close your practice.
For how long? Who knows?
If it were me, I would start with four weeks and re-evaluate after three.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had all the information we needed to make informed, non-panicky decisions that we knew would maximize effectiveness against the spread of COVID-19 virus, and minimize financial hardship?
Sadly, we don’t have that data.
No one is going to make this decision for you. Not your membership organization, not your state board, only you.
No one is going to make this any easier for you.
This is your call. And if you want my opinion (and presumably you’re interested, because you’re reading this), here it is: close your practice.
Here are some things we know that have led me to this point of view:
1. The time between exposure and symptoms can be up to 14 days.
2. The virus is contagious for days before symptoms develop, so your “healthy client” might not be.
3. The virus stays intact on surfaces for several days; it stays intact in the air for several hours (at least).
4. COVID-19 is extremely contagious, and it doesn’t take a lot of exposure to spread from one person to another.
5. The virus appears to be contagious after symptoms subside—but we don’t know how long.
6. At this point, older people and those with impaired immune systems are not necessarily more likely than others to catch the virus, but they are more likely to need extensive medical interventions. (Although that may be changing. In some countries the number of people in hospital care are skewing much younger.)
7. We don’t have enough medical capacity to manage what’s coming—which makes it even more vital not to add to that load in any way.
There are so many things about this situation that should have been different. I could list a bunch, but (A) it wouldn’t help and (B) isn’t our blood pressure high enough without recounting all the ways our systems have failed us? And this frustration doesn’t even include some of the nutso crazypants stuff I’ve seen on Facebook and other outlets. For the record, keeping your throat moist will not prevent you from getting sick with COVID-19. Neither will holding your breath for 10 seconds.
But if we all commit to extreme social isolation, it is practically for sure that the impact of COVID-19 in this country will be less extreme, at least in the short run. While roughly the same number of people will get sick, it will happen over a longer period of time. This “flattening of the curve” means our health-care facilities might be able to keep up with our needs (see link here), which means the mortality rate will fall. And the day will come when we might be able to look back and say, “Wow, that wasn’t so bad—weren’t we silly to over-react?”
This will demonstrate that we did it right.
The naysayers and virus-skeptics and my-immune-system-is-strong-so-I’ll-do-what-I-want folks will point fingers and scoff and say we all fell for a huge hoax. Let them. They are wrong.
There’s a parallel in our recent history. In the 1970s, massive changes were put in place to limit the type of air pollution that caused acid rain. At that time, rain was literally melting our forests and corroding our buildings, not to mention what it was doing to groundwater. The changes, while expensive and inconvenient for many industries, worked. Acid rain is no longer considered a threat. And the result: some people (including some politicians who should *swearword* know better) suggest that the changes were unnecessary, because look: acid rain isn’t really a problem! Argle bargle. You can’t *swearword* win.
Let’s Make Some Lemonade!
The financial burden of losing several weeks’ of business is undeniable. I’m sorry, there’s no easy way out of this. Once this crisis has passed, it will be important to plan ahead for the next one. Financial planners recommend having at least a month’s worth of expenses put in an accessible savings account—just for events like this.
That said, having some dedicated but unscheduled time to devote to business holds a lot of potential.
This is a great time to do a really thorough cleaning of your office. Go in when it’s empty, and disinfect your equipment and surfaces. Do a top-to-bottom refresh. Dust, launder, swab, decontaminate, and shine up all your stuff. Listen to loud music while you do it. It will be fun. And when you go back to work—oh, such a joy it will be to enter your gorgeous, sparkling workplace!
This is a great time to take some continuing education online. Go shopping in the rich ABMP collection of online CE classes, here. You could take some business classes, and use this time to make plans for a grand re-opening. You could take some research literacy classes, and go on a PubMed.gov treasure hunt for articles that are up your alley. Have you always been curious about a certain technique or approach to bodywork? Here’s an opportunity to explore it to see what you might want to pursue in live classes.
Do you send out blogs or newsletters for your clients? Get ahead on your writing, and put some pieces away for later. It’s more important than ever to keep those lines of communication open, so this is a good investment of your energy. Let your clients know that while you can’t see them in person, you’re thinking of them.
It’s tax time: get ahead of your taxes for this year, and set up your books for easy use next year.
If you are caring for children during this time, include them in appropriate activities. Make them your model while you watch a technique video. Learn, or re-learn, some anatomy together. Make this time a gift.
Most of all, breathe deeply and be kind. Let’s take care of each other and help each other through a scary time. We’re going to be OK. We will emerge, poorer in money, but richer in experience, because we took the right actions. And we will be ready to help our clients and our communities come back up to full speed when the time is right.