While hospitals are being overrun in NYC, we should Pause massage during this coronavirus / COVID-19 outbreak
This post is now out of date
Click below for our most up-to-date news on COVID-19 Safety for Massage Therapy & our Bodyworks DW Reopening Plan:
NOW AVAILABLE: Video Visits for Pain & Stress
Many of our massage therapists have trainings in multiple movement and coaching based disciplines such as yoga, pilates, personal training, ortho-bionomy, life and health coaching, and more. While we are all stuck at home, our team is here for you to help craft pain and stress management routines and exercises for you to help you through this crisis.
Update, Friday 3/27/2020 9 am: We are closed for massage therapy through April 30th
Based on current projections for virus transmission and hospital resources in NYC, we have decided to stay closed through April 31st. We are currently contacting client to reschedule there appointments to May. We will keep everyone posted both here and through email and social media if our reopen date winds up being sooner than that (or later).
Update, Friday 3/20/2020 12:30 pm:
It’s hard to imagine that just 1 week ago I wrote a post that said getting massage therapy would be safe during this outbreak.
Based on the accepted data available at that time from major news sources, and based on the existing strictures being put in place, I think that was the right call to make at the time. When this post was published, we were at the point of only limiting gatherings of 500 or more.
We were also working under the assumption that screening for symptoms and preventing clients in a high risk group from coming in would be enough. To justify staying open, I actually talked to several doctors including a hospital administrator who helped us design our screening process.
However, things have been changing extremely rapidly. Within days of writing the initial posts strictures changed from no groups of 500 or more to 50….and then to 10. Within hours.
The other big thing that happened is the release of the Imperial Science Study on the virus. As someone who made a living writing math and science textbooks for 10 years before I went to massage school (in case you didn’t know), the math on this virus is extremely sobering. In ways that took me a day or two to really digest.
When governor Cuomo spoke to the public on Monday 3/16, he laid out the math just for NYS. Here is why we are now basically at Shelter in Place (they aren’t calling it that, they are calling it NYS on Pause….but we are basically being told to shelter in place as of about 30 minutes ago).
The math on this crisis in NYS
- For NYS we start with total population at 18,000,000.
- Projections are that anywhere between 20-60% of NYS residents will contract this virus over time. = 3,600,000 to 10,800,000.
- Of those 80% will have no symptoms to light/heavier symptoms but will get over it without medical intervention.
- The crazy number to get your head wrapped around is the hospitalization rate for this virus, which is 17%. Number of people in NYS who will need to be hospitalized = 612,000 to 1,836,000
- The number of hospital beds in NYS is about 50,000. That’s it. Meaning that if we successfully “flatten the curve” we spread out who gets this over 1-3 years to keep the beds from being completely overrun. This doesn’t even take into account the limited number of ICU beds in NYS (about 5,000).
Other relevant numbers that you should know
- According to latest data from China and Italy, about 50% of patients that need to be put on ventilators wind up dying in the end.
- The Imperial Study estimates 2.2 million deaths in US if we do nothing and just go about our normal lives. 1.1 million if most of us social distance but 25% of us ignore it and go about normal life.
- Newest data also shows that the idea that adults under 60 are relatively safe is not correct as 40% of hospitalizations are folks aged 20-49. While those people mostly recover that is only due to hospitals still having capacity for them. Once hospitals get overrun (which could be in the next week), that age group is no longer safe either.
Update, Tuesday 3/17/2020 am:
We are closing for two weeks due to newly expanded CDC recommendations asking all “non-essential” businesses to close for 14 days. We will plan to reopen on April 1, however, we will make a decision closer to that date.
Update, Monday 3/16/2020 pm:
Okay, things have changed again. Today the CDC announced far more drastic recommended measures. We are still “technically” allowed to be open, but struggling with what the correct course of action is. We are meeting as a studio tomorrow morning at 11 am (via video conference, not in person!) and will decide whether a 2 week closure is the correct choice, while trying to balance the needs of our clients, the needs of our therapists, and the needs of the public in this crisis. We will inform all of our existing clients via email, social media, and our website once we have made a decision.
Update, Monday 3/16/2020 am: Given how difficult it has been to make a decision on whether to stay open, I was heartened yesterday by my first client, who happens to work in emergency medicine administration and is completely stressed overworking at his hospital. He was very glad we were open and able to see him for his back pain which was getting bad and affecting his ability to work. He had some advice on our screening protocol, since he is one of the folks at his hospital who had to create theirs. So, on his advice, I want to clarify exactly what we will be doing (and your should be doing) to screen clients and try and keep the virus out of the studio:
Please practice Self Screening before you come in for your appointment
- Have you had any of the relevant symptoms for coronavirus (fever, dry cough, whole body aches, vomiting) during the last week? We suggest taking your temperature at home and confirming that you are below 100.4 (according to the CDC) before making the trip in.
- If you can answer “no” to the above then you should be okay to come in for your appointment. We suggest taking a car or walking to the studio if possible rather than taking the subway.
- If you can answer “yes” to the above, then you should call us and reschedule your appointment for a time 14 days after your last symptoms showed. As this is due to probable illness we will reschedule the appointment at no charge, even with less than 24 hours notice. Even if you take your temperature right before you leave your house to go to your appt and it’s high. We would rather err on the side of caution here than have people feel forced to come in for an appointment and get the staff and other clients sick.
Screening at the office when you arrive
- We will take your temperature when you arrive at the office to confirm that you do not have a fever. In addition, we will be asking if you have had any symptoms (fever, dry cough, whole body aches, vomiting) during the last week. If you show a temperature above 100.4 or answer yes to the symptoms screening, you will be sent home at no charge. Since this would obviously be a giant hassle for you to have made the trip we ask that everyone diligently self screen.
Update, Sunday 3/15/2020 am: Starting Monday we will be asking our front desk staff to work from home to answer phones and emails as an extra precaution and to take one more person out of the office. Therapists will continue working with clients and practicing stringent virus spread prevention at our studios (see below for more detail on how). In addition, we will be fever screening using a forehead thermometer all clients and staff who enter the studio. Anyone with a fever will be sent home, no charge for the missed appointment. We hope to start screening on Tuesday which is the soonest that we could get the devices to arrive given that anything related to cleaning and screening is being bought out.
We are keeping up to date by the hour on the situation. Currently, the city is practicing moderate social distancing but is not in a full Italy style lockdown quarantine. This is what has been decided by the leading health experts as the best course of action given the known data at this time. This is to prevent the potential catastrophic economic effects that a full lockdown would entail.
We hope that these moderate social distancing measures of ending large group events for anything over 500 people will be enough to flatten the curve. In addition, the city is restricting how many people can gather at venues to 50% of their capacity (we are never even full to 10% of our capacity at the office).
If the city determines that more extreme distancing measures are required and institutes a full lockdown, we will close as recommended at that time. We are not at that point yet and consider the work we do to be valuable enough for people’s physical and mental well being to worth staying open.
We do recommend taking a car or walking to the studio if at all possible since the subway has the highest potential for spreading the virus.
Both our Financial District and Midtown massage studios are open and will stay open throughout this crisis. Due to our stringent virus prevention practices, we believe that it is safe to get massage during a coronavirus outbreak.
A lot has happened in the last few days. The city issued an emergency declaration. A lot of businesses that gather large amounts of people are closing for 14-30 days including theaters, museums, stadiums, etc. The city has asked businesses with under 500 person capacities to only accept 50% of their normal customers at a time which will have harsh economic effects on the food and drink industry the longer it lasts. However, as a health care provider that practices strict virus prevention and that generally only has a maximum of 8-10 people in our studios at a time, we feel that continuing our services in this stressful time is positive for the community.
Why we recommend that you consider keeping your massage appointments
We are staying open as we are providing a stress reducing service that helps boost your immune system in a very low risk environment. And, in addition to our normally stringent anti-viral practices, we are instituting several new ones intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at our studios. We believe that it is safe to get a massage during a coronavirus outbreak or any other non-airborne disease outbreak.
We understand that “very low risk” is not the same as “no risk.” And that some of our clients will choose to forego getting massage in the short term as a precaution and one less potential place you could contract the virus. However, we recommend keeping your appointments if you are not in a high risk group as a way to feel some normalcy in your life. And as a way to de-stress during this very stressful time. Isolation can lead to depression….which can lower your immune system’s ability to fend off this virus. Our studios continue to be a safe oasis in this city. A place where you can get away from the stress, knowing that we are doing everything possible to keep you and your family safe from COVID-19.
A word from a doctor on just how safe our studios are
I had a regular client in the studio last night for his regular massage who is a doctor at Mount Sinai. He felt comfortable coming in as he does not currently interact with the patients dealing with COVID-19. He said that he would be far more concerned about giving me the virus than the other way around (and not really concerned about that but wanted to let me know all of the virus spread prevention practices he engages in at work for my piece of mind). He also said that our clients would be at far greater risk to get the virus at the supermarket than from getting a massage with us. As he noted, the only person that you absolutely have to come within 6 feet of at our studio is your massage therapist. In his estimation getting massage during a coronavirus outbreak is relatively safe and low risk.
Since you do have to come within 6 feet of your massage therapist for it to be of benefit (this isn’t reiki) here are all of the ways that massage therapists are trained to prevent communicable disease spread that we diligently practice at Bodyworks DW:
“Always” practices to prevent the spread of disease at Bodyworks DW
- Every client gets a new, freshly laundered set of sheets including (and especially) the face cradle cover
- Massage therapists wash their hands between every session and avoid touching their own face when working on a client to prevent giving or getting a disease
- If a massage therapist coughs or sneezes (it is allergy season right now and the heaters can dry out our space) they never do so into their hands but instead into their shoulder. Afterwards, they use hand sanitizer just to be safe before touching the client again
- When working near the client’s face, we are taught to breath away from the client
- If a therapist is running a fever or showing symptoms of a cold or flu they are not allowed to work with clients
In addition to these methods which we have always practiced, we are instituting some further practices specific to COVID-19 and this emergency:
Additional COVID-19 Prevention Practices at Bodyworks DW
- If you believe that you have come within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 2 weeks we ask that you self-quarantine and reschedule your appointments for 14 days later
- If you have any symptoms for COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, body aches) we ask that you self-quarantine and reschedule your appointments for 14 days later
- If you are in a high risk group or live with someone in a high risk group (60+ years of age, lung issues, immunocompromised, cancer patient) we recommend that you avoid as much contact as possible (social distancing) on your way to and from appointments
- Despite the fact that we are very friendly folks at our studios, we are no longer shaking hands or giving hugs to clients or each other. So, to keep massage during a coronavirus safe expect either a bow or an elbow bump as a greeting 🙂
- To ensure everyones safety during this time, we are asking staff to avoid travel to any major outbreak zones and asking clients to self-quarantine for 14 days if they have recently traveled to an outbreak zone
Remember, the goal of the current situation is to slow the spread as much as possible
We are staying open to provide our services during this stressful time for many reasons. Like most businesses, we would be in serious financial trouble if we simply closed our doors for 14-30 days. I want to be transparent about that. But if the city mandates that we close, we will absolutely follow emergency orders. And we would be okay. However, until that time, we want to help keep you as pain free and stress free as we can. And we continue our many practices to keep massage safe during a coronavirus outbreak.
The most recent estimates for COVID-19 are that eventually 25-50% of the US population are going to contract the virus. That sounds scary, but most people (80%) have zero to only slightly uncomfortable symptoms (think light cold). 15% of people will have more severe but manageable symptoms (think bad flu). It’s the estimated 1% mortality rate and 1-5% harsh symptom rate that are concerning. This is almost entirely hitting the at risk groups, so if you are under 60, have healthy lungs, and aren’t dealing with a compromised immune system you really have nothing to worry about regarding your own personal health. Or your kids, who don’t seem to be having any dangerous symptoms from this virus. But odds are pretty good that you’ll get this sometime in the next 12 months.
Why most of you shouldn’t worry about getting COVID-19 but also should try to prevent getting it soon
However, that 1-5% harsh symptoms group is in danger, especially if the virus spreads throughout the country in weeks instead of months. This virus attacks lung tissue and can severely limit breathing in the high risk population. There is no current medication or cure for it, which means that these patients needs to be put in an ICU on a ventilator to assist their breathing while their own immune system fights off the infection. Supportive medications can help this process but the only thing actually killing the virus currently is our own white blood cells. We currently have only about 100,000 ICU beds in the US which means we can only handle that many of these kinds of patients at one time (assuming they aren’t already needed for many other illnesses that still exist).
You are going to hear a lot about “flattening the curve” over the next days and weeks (see chart above, probably not for the first time). The entire goal of this is to prevent our ICU beds from being overrun with high risk group COVID-19 patients. Thus the wholesale closing of large group events and gatherings which have the most potential for mass infection of the population. These closings represent the left side of the blue curve and are intended to prevent the red curve from taking place which would result in a lot more people dying. For reference, the length of time on the bottom axis is about 6 months, meaning these closures are going to be happening over the next 2-3 months.
By spreading out how quickly we get the virus we give hospitals time to clear their ICU beds for the next patients. We also give the medical community time to implement better testing to predict areas where the virus will hit harder. And get more data to create and implement a vaccine for it. In the meantime, a large percentage of lives will be saved. And yes, it’s scary and also annoying not to be able to engage in large group activities that we are used to but it will mean a huge number of lives are saved.
Getting a massage during a coronavirus outbreak can help you get through this crisis
Again, we are staying open to continue serving the community through this stressful time. And we will continue to give you updates if anything changes. I hope I’ve helped to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to keep our studio safe from viral transmission and to you all of you safe. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (917) 740-2709.
We hope to see you at the studio soon! – David