massage therapy is #covidsafe with our safety protocols

COVID-19 Safety & Massage Therapy: How Bodyworks DW Has Safely Reopened

David Weintraub Licensed Massage Therapist and Owner at Bodyworks DW Advanced Massage Therapy

by Owner David Weintraub, LMT

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes

Updated 2/15/2023: As of Sunday, 2/12/2023, NYS has lifted the state mandate on wearing masks in healthcare facilities and most hospitals and doctors offices have made masks optional. We have decided that it’s finally time for us to make masks optional at our studios for both clients and therapists. However, if, as a client you would feel safest with your therapist also wearing a mask during treatment you can request this and our therapists will be happy to honor those requests. You may also find that your therapist or other clients in the studio continue to choose to wear a masks if they or their family are immunocompromised.

Updated 12/21/2021: We are monitoring the quickly changing situation with the spread of the Omicron variant. We have decided that for the safety of our clients and our staff, that all clients attending massage sessions at our studio must be fully vaccinated (1 dose of J&J or 2 doses of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines). We are announcing this as of today and will be checking for proof of vaccination for all clients starting January 3rd.

Updated on September 28 2021

As of today, our entire staff at Bodyworks DW has been vaccinated!

Updated on September 3 2021

We have decided as a private business that provides healthcare to include ourselves in the NYS Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers, despite the fact that Title VIII healthcare workers are not expressly included in the mandate (massage therapists, acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc).

Currently, nearly our entire staff is fully vaccinated. Our remaining non-vaccinated staff will continue testing weekly and their results will be posted here. By September 27th, all remaining staff will be required to have received their first dose of an FDA approved vaccine, and to be fully vaccinated by November 8th at the latest to continue their employment with our studios.

Updated on August 1 2021

In response to the latest reporting on the transmissibility of the Delta variant for covid-19, we are returning to our previous masking policy. Going forward, all clients and therapists will be required to wear a mask at our studios both in the waiting area and during treatment.

Updated on February 15 2021

We are now starting the process of getting our team vaccinated. NYS has approved licensed massage therapists as part of group 1a. A few of us including owner David Weintraub have already had the 2nd dose of the Moderna vaccine. However, getting appointments scheduled is still really difficult with demand higher than supply. We hope to have our entire team including our front desk staff fully vaccinated by the end of March. Once the distribution chain for vaccines stabilizes and we have more information, we’ll update everyone as to how far along we are and what percentage of our team has been vaccinated. Vaccinations will have no effect on our Covid-19 Safety Plan and we will continue to practice all safety measures.

In addition, we are monitoring the situation with the new “London” variant of the coronavirus (B.1.1.7). This variant has been identified in several cases in NYC and is likely already spreading here. While more transmissible, the good news is that it our safety measures at the studio are still working and we continue to have zero transmissions.

This includes a few cases where a client notified us that they tested positive in the days after visiting our studio. While initially worrisome, we have confirmed through testing and contact tracing that no client or staff member has gotten a transmission at our studio. In these cases, all contacts at the studio were negative, even therapists who spent 90 minutes in a room working with the client. What this shows is that our safety measures, including masks and proper mask etiquette are working. Mask up, get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible, and stay safe NYC! And come de-stress with a #covidsafe massage 🙂

(Updated on September 3rd 2020)

NYS updated their guidelines on September 3rd in one significant way: we are now allowed to perform services which require removing masks again. For us, this means that we can finally do inner mouth work for TMJ and migraine sufferers again! This work is important, highly specialized, and something very few massage studios can offer. We don’t give it to all clients, but for those of you with TMJ, jaw tension, and migraine issue, this is really great news!

inner mouth massage therapy for TMJ and jaw tension

How the new guidelines will work

Specifically, if this is work we feel that would help you and you want to receive it, we will only remove your mask during the few minutes this work takes and we will don a face shield as well as mask and goggles. For the safety of our therapists and other clients, we will only remove masks for this kind of work, which usually takes about 5-8 minutes during a session and is performed at the end.

As part of the new guidelines, our therapists who have trained for this work will be taking new COVID-19 diagnostic tests. You can see who has received a negative test result after September 3rd here.

New NYS guidelines allow inner mouth work for TMJ, click on image for full NYS guidelines

(Updated on August 13th)

Now that we have reopened, we have finalized and submitted our COVID-19 safety plan. This plan is comprehensive and as up to date as possible based on the newest science. We are sharing it with you for transparency! That way, you can see the new steps we will be taking to keep our clients and staff as safe as possible.

Since reopening on July 6th, we have started with our “soft” reopening (see below). About 1/2 of our therapists have come back and we have seen over 250 clients in our first month back! All therapists who have started seeing clients in Phase 3 have tested per NYS guidelines. I personally had a negative Covid-19 diagnostic test on 6/29/20 before working with clients. And a follow up test on Monday 7/13/20 and again on 7/27/20. Both were negative. Off to a great start 🙂

If you’d like to read more about how things have been going (great!) since we’ve reopened, click here for my update blog on massage therapy covid safety!

Read the NYS Summary Guidelines for Phase 3 Personal Care Services, Including Massage Therapy

We Are Committed to Your Safety
Above & Beyond What NYS May Require

We are implementing as many feasible safety measures as possible. Our studio wants to keep both our clients and out therapists as safe as possible. Regardless of whether NYS mandates specific measures. We still haven’t finalized our exact COVID-19 safety plan. However, there are some things we know for sure that we will be changing for safety. In addition, I am personally researching everything I can about workplace safety, health, and this virus. We make decisions based on the advice of well informed public health experts.

Following NYS, CDC, and OSHA Guidelines

In preparing our safety plan, we will be relying on several federal and state agency documents. The main document is the NYS Guidelines for Personal Care Services. (1) In addition, these guidelines refer to federal guidelines including the OSHA Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (2) and the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses (3) page.

References are listed at the bottom of this post. We will be updating this COVID-19 safety plan regularly with any new relevant information available, as it comes out.

Our COVID-19 Safety Plan

Both diagnostic and antibody testing is becoming far more widely available in NYC. And the NYS on Pause mitigation strategy has flattened the curve significantly. We are at the point where the virus is mostly isolated in NYC. With proper safety measures, containment strategies such as testing and tracing, and all of us being smart about our actions, we believe that it is relatively safe to start reopening Bodyworks DW for business. With several new safety measures in place.

Some basics to know first


Distancing is Not Always Possible

  • We are a touch based modality. We cannot socially distance the minimum recommended six feet between us and you during many parts of a massage. Therefore, strict adherence to all other available safety measures is vital for the safety of you and our staff.
  • We understand that some of these measures may be slightly less comfortable. For both our clients and our staff. However, we will always prioritize safety over comfort when a choice has to be made between them.
  • Since this virus can spread asymptomatically, we will be implementing many safety measures beyond simply screening for symptoms. None individually would be enough to stop all transmissions, but collectively will offer a very high degree of safety. (5)

Safety Measure 1: Screening

Risk Group Screening

Symptom Screening Prior to Appointment

  • As part of our COVID-19 safety plan, we will be screening all therapists and clients before allowing any into the studio. Anyone entering the studio will be asked to attest to not having had any symptoms related to COVID-19 in the last 14 days. In addition, we will need our staff and clients to attest to not having had any contact with anyone with a known case of COVID-19 or symptoms related to it in the last 14 days.
  • If you start having symptoms the day of your appointment, please call to reschedule your appointment at no charge. While we ask that clients still honor our 24 hour cancellation policy, we will be waiving it for any possible cases of COVID-19. That includes any possible symptoms for it.

Covid Safety Measure 2: Strict Hygiene & Disinfection Protocols

  • As licensed massage therapists in NYS, we already had fairly strict virus protection hygiene practices at our studio. Hand-washing, sanitizing, not touching our face, and wiping down all touched surfaces after sessions were all already part of our normal daily routine. In addition, every client has always received a freshly laundered (by an industrial hospital grade machine) set of linens for their session.
  • In addition to these existing practices, for our new COVID-19 safety plan, we will be making hand sanitizer stations prominent in the studio. We ask that you use these upon entering the studio, and before entering the restrooms.
  • All sanitizers at the studio will have at least a 60% alcohol content as recommended by the CDC. In addition, we have checked to make sure they are not on the FDA recall list.
  • We will be eliminating unnecessary points of contact such as credit cards and cash. All checkouts will use the credit cards that you have on file. We will ask that you use hand sanitizer right before signing at the end of the checkout process.
  • We will be adding an additional 15 minutes of time between appointments to allow for extra cleaning time.

Safety Measure 3: Social Distancing Wherever Possible

  • We will be blocking off the waiting area couch due to the difficulty of disinfecting fabric.
  • We’ll be placing waiting area chairs 6 feet apart.
  • At the bathroom where there is sometimes a wait, there will be a distanced sign of where to stand away from the door.
  • When we greet you and during intake and outtake we will keep a 6 foot distance, especially as this time of talking has a slightly higher risk of transmission
  • While we love chatting with all of you, we will ask to keep talking during sessions both as quiet as possible, and brief. Loud talking vs simply breathing may have an impact on virus spread. We don’t know that for sure yet through studies, but we think it’s better to be safer than sorry at this time.

Safety Measure 4: Mask Requirements

  • Again, we will be requiring that all persons in the studio be wearing a face mask at all times, including during the massage therapy session itself. This has been mandated by NYS. These can be any type of face covering including cloth masks, surgical masks, etc. N-95 and respirator type masks are not required.
  • For vaccinated massage clients, please refer to these updated guidelines as of May 24th, 2021
  • While we understand that it might be slightly less relaxing to wear a mask during your session, both you and a therapist wearing a mask is one of the single most effective safety measures that can be taken.
  • In order to make lying face down more comfortable on the table, we will be using pillowcases as a drape shield that hangs below the face cradle. The pillowcase will not have to touch your face but will create an enclosed space for you air. In practice, this is more comfortable than wearing a mask while in the face cradle. You will need to wear a mask when switching from this position to side lying or face up.

Inner Mouth Work for TMJ and Migraines

Safety Measure 5: Air Circulation & Purification

  • The main risk factor for transmission will be between therapist and client during the massage therapy sessions. Talking and breathing the same air in an enclosed space can cause asymptomatic transmission.
  • Our treatment rooms have windows and high ceilings.
  • We will be keeping medical grade (HEPA-13 filters) air purifiers in each treatment room and in the waiting areas. While the science isn’t in yet on whether HEPA filters are effective for this particular virus, they are effective for similar viruses. We are adding these as an “every little bit helps” preventative measure. These particular air purifiers cycle the air through an entire cycle for our treatment rooms about every 10 minutes or so. In addition, their simply being on means that there is a constant low level air flow in the treatment rooms which helps to prevent build up of aerosol clouds.
  • We will keep windows in treatment rooms open from time to time order to allow for air circulation to the outside.

Our Goal is to Make Our Studios as Safe As Possible, Always

We’ve always had a commitment to safety at our studios. As a practitioner, I’ve made sure to keep up to date with the latest practices and have always taken my responsibilities as a licensed massage therapist seriously. In the past, this included strict hygiene protocols on hand washing and disinfecting, laundering our linens at hospital grade levels, and asking both staff and clients to self-screen for cold and flu, and other communicable diseases.

This specific coronavirus does require a new and stricter COVID-19 safety plan for massage therapy to prevent transmission than businesses had engaged in before. Preventing colds or flu is always a worthwhile goal. But like this virus, not 100% possible. The consequences for flu were both known and less severe.

Our COVID-19 Safety Plan for Massage Therapy Needs Everyone to Work Properly

Our new COVID-19 safety measures, as well as any further measures that become recommended will make the likelihood of getting the virus at our studio extremely low. We will be continually monitoring their effectiveness and making decisions to open up further, stay open, or potentially partially or fully close down again, entirely based on science and data.

We hope that all of this information help you stay informed and allows you to make your own decisions about your health and safety. Choosing whether to come to our studio to get a massage is an individual choice based on a number of important factors for each of you. As we all start poking our heads out of full quarantine, we will each have our own needs and risk tolerances.

Our hope is to be able to provide the pain and stress relief that you’ve come to count on at our studio to you in the safest way possible. So that it is there for you whenever you are ready.

Thanks to each and every one of you for your support to me and the studio over the years! – David & the Staff @ Bodyworks DW


  1. NYS Guidelines for Personal Care Services
  2. OSHA Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
  3. CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses
  4. CDC How Coronavirus Spreads
  5. Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reëntry
  6. CDC FAQ
  7. NYS COVID-19 Tracker on Fatalties

Further Reading



  1. I am trying to find out if bi-weekly covid testing for therapists is mandatory in nys and how that is paid for. I am a therapist and have not found anything difinative regarding that . I’d appreciate any info or links you could provide.
    Thank you
    Susan Phillips

  2. Hi Susan,

    Great question! If you look at the detailed NYS guidelines for Personal Care Services (which is what massage therapy is falling under in this reopening context), there is a section on screening & testing on page 11 & 12:

    Basically, it translates to “strongly encouraged” to test prior to seeing clients (but not mandated), and yes, we are required (the word “shall” in legalese makes it mandatory) to have a test every two weeks while seeing clients, and while your region of NYS is in Phase 3. Since most of NYS is now in Phase 4, you wouldn’t need to keep testing unless you are in NYC which is currently in Phase 3 (as of July 17th). I believe they are announcing today whether we are going to move to Phase 4 on Monday the 20th or not.

    Testing is FREE as long as you make the appointment through the NYS Hotline (888) 364-3065. First, though, you need to do an online assessment to create an account with the state here:

    Once you make an account they will have your phone number in the system so that when you call the hotline they can immediately see who you are and set up your appointment (don’t worry, there are currently no limiting criteria for a test so it doesn’t really matter what you chose for what category you are in, symptoms, etc).

    In general, I’ve found the process fairly easy. If you ask for info on getting your results digitally at the testing site, they will give you info on that. I got my results of my most recent test on the 13th back in 24 hours digitally.

    Hope this helps!
    David Weintraub

  3. Thanks for your detailed outline of what you’ve done to safely re-open your business. Have your precautions in fact kept you and your clients from transmitting the virus? Have you had any cases among your staff or clients? I am a massage therapist in Minnesota, where cases are now on the rise. I am a self-employed sole practitioner so have complete control over how and when I re-open. Currently, I am seeing clients with a “critical need” for massage work and who are able to practice the recommended social distancing in their work and personal lives. They determine if they fit that profile. I also have the following protocols in place:
    – Face down work only
    – 60 minute maximum
    – face masks for practitioner and client
    – HyperHEPA air purifier running in treatment room
    – health screening
    – hand washing / hand sanitizing
    – check-in from parking lot vs waiting room

    I have not been seeing some of my usual clients, like dental hygienists, because they are at higher risk of being exposed to the virus because they work in close contact with people for prolonged periods of time, but I don’t feel right excluding them. The majority of my extremely caution stems being in frequent contact with my aging parents, and wanting to avoid spreading anything to them. My question to you is, as more and more massage therapy businesses open up, have you heard of any widespread infections from asymptomatic people? I have not heard of any in any personal services so I wonder if it is relative “safe” or if we are just not hearing about them. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter.

    1. Hi Jean! Thanks for your comment, and your great questions. I actually just wrote a new blogpost about how we have been doing that answers many of your questions:

      The short answer is that our precautions have kept us virus free for the last 4 weeks and I have yet to hear of anyone else in NYS running into any issues either.

      On the other hand, our numbers are very low in NYS and alternating between flatline stability and dropping slightly from week to week. If your local numbers are rising that is a bad sign and something to keep an eye on, especially if you are working with lots of “high risk” populations (we are only just starting to encourage those groups back to the studio). We certainly have NOT seen widespread infections from asymptomatic people, which was our biggest worry. That doesn’t mean it’s 100% foolproof or impossible, but it’s not happening so far to my knowledge (the blog post linked above has more on this).

      A couple of things in regards to your proposed protocols:
      a) We have been doing work in all normal positions including face down, face up, and side lying. Masks are worn at all times by both client and practitioner, except when face down where we are using the pillowcase method of creating an enclosed space that acts like a mask but is more comfortable for clients. As a practitioner, I would have a very hard time doing the postural realignment work that I do where each session progresses on the prior one if I only had access to prone position.
      b) While I understand the arguments for keeping sessions shorter, we have been doing 90 minute sessions as well as 60 minute sessions without any transmissions. That isn’t to say that’s the right answer or that keeping things to 60 minutes wouldn’t create a small extra layer of safety, but just to give you some data to work with.
      c) Personally I think the most important safety factors are low community numbers to start with, masks for both practitioners and clients, and air purifiers. We were already religious hand washers/sanitizers and cleaners pre-covid, but if that needs tightening up too, then yes, very important as well.

      The “do we work on health care providers that we know have made contact with infected individuals” question is a thorny one. You may want to try a “phased” approach for re-opening where you start with a younger non-frontline population for 2-4 weeks so that you can practice the new protocols and get comfortable with them first. Then start encouraging older and/or more at risk populations back once you feel better about how it’s working. We’ve done that. Without actively excluding anyone (in a way that might get us in trouble with discrimination laws) we have been transparent about where we are at with the confidence in our protocols. This post was written prior to reopening and basically asked high risk folks to wait. Now, we are saying that if they want to try coming back, we think it’s a good time.

      Hope this helps! Let us know if you have any more questions and good luck with your reopening 🙂 I will say it’s really really great to back to work and able to help folks again! – David

  4. David,

    Thank you so much for taking time to provide such a thorough response. I read both that and the blog post with great interest. I have two remaining questions if you have time to answer:

    1) Are you still keeping the windows open in your treatment rooms? I am not fortunate to have one. 🙁

    2) You mentioned that “While the science isn’t in yet on whether HEPA filters are effective for this particular virus, they are effective for similar viruses.” Can you point me in the direction of the research that shows the effectiveness of HEPA air purifiers with similar viruses?

    Thanks so much! I also spent a delightful time looking around the rest of your site. You seem to be running a remarkable business. I wish I lived in NY so I could stop by and get an outstanding massage. I could use one about now!

    With sincere thanks,


  5. Hey Jean,

    Glad I can help 🙂 I know sorting through all of this is super stressful and trying to figure out how to both get back to work and keep safe….well, there is a lot to digest! To answer your questions:
    1) We are opening windows in treatment rooms overnight to air them out as long as weather is clear (if a storm is predicted we’d flood the room if we kept them open. However, if you’ve got a good air purifier, you could simply run it for an extra 20 minutes after you finish with your last client and that should effectively cycle the air in the room at least once through the filters.
    2) This is the purifier we went with: (no endorsement deals or anything…it just gets great reviews and was reasonably priced to buy enough for 1 in each of 6 rooms). Keep in mind that part of the safety that an air purifier provides is filtration and yes, having better filters will presumably filter out more virus from the air. However, a lesser but important function is also air circulation which will keep any aerosol clouds of virus that could build up above the table from sitting there stagnantly for the next client (and you) to breath in. So even if the filters don’t catch every last particle of virus, simply having the purifier on keep the air flowing, which is a good thing. Our treatment rooms run from about 130 sq ft for the smallest to about 180 sq ft for the largest. Doing the quick math on this model purifier….it’s cycling the entire air in the room about every 10-15 minutes. BTW, here’s a great article on how HEPA can help but don’t count on it as the only line of defense (and really only as a secondary line of defense):

    My basic attitude after practicing the last 5 weeks is now “trust your PPE and your air purifier to keep you safe.” I still do all the things I’ve done for the last 13 years such as facing away from clients when working close so as to lessen how much air we exchange, not coughing or sneezing in their direction (seasonal allergies are way up right now), not touching my face unless I hand sanitize first.

    Thanks for the praise for our website and our practice! You are reminding me that I need to get on my staff’s schedule for a massage myself 😉

    Hope you can get back to work soon!

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    1. Of course! And thanks for the praise 🙂

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