June 14, 2020
Dear Clients of Jeannine Smith, LMT, and Heidi Seaton, LMT:
By now you have probably heard that Connecticut will be allowing personal services businesses to resume operations on June 17, 2020. Massage Therapy is included within this Phase 2 Opening Group. There are many new requirements and policies with which businesses must comply and certify to before they can open. During these past 3 months since we voluntarily closed to keep you safe from COVID-19, we have been researching daily and following the science as it evolves for the novel viral pandemic, and agonizing over how and when we could safely start seeing you again.
Besides taking Pathology during massage school, Jeannine has worked in a medical setting for many years, and Heidi has a science background including multiple courses in Pathobiology, Virology, and Public Health. None of this experience makes us experts in predicting what this virus will do, but it does make us very respectful of this virus and very aware that this pandemic is still in its infancy, even though in Connecticut we have done a good job flattening the curve. But the virus does not care about policies; rather, it will just continue to do what viruses are exceptionally good at ─ infecting people and potentially causing severe disease, long-term aftereffects, or death.
Some new evidence shows that there can be otherwise healthy people who are infected but have no COVID-19 symptoms and yet have underlying blood vessel pathology due to the virus which makes blood clots and strokes possible without warning. Also, there are no parameters in place yet to help us discern how to address when it is okay to resume massage for someone who has recovered from COVID-19. These situations all carry concerns regarding the safety of giving and receiving massage.
Leading pathology teachers and researchers within our massage therapy profession agree that the only safe massage is a massage in which both massage therapist and client are infection-free or are non-contagious. Currently, there is no way to know when that is the case. Anyone could be infected with this virus, and it is our opinion that the safest assumption right now is to assume that everyone could be contagious, including your massage therapist.
We fully realize that many of you do feel you want to return to receiving massage right now. It has been months, and we know it is hard to wait for that comforting touch. But we ask you to pause and consider what you are risking for yourself and anyone else with whom you come into contact by getting that massage session: COVID-19 remains a devastating, life-changing disease at the very least, and deadly at its worst, until we understand more about it and have more treatment and prevention capabilities. Receiving massage is not worth ending up on a ventilator, or having a stroke, or undergoing months of recovery for either you or a loved one.
Consider that during most massages, two people spend 60-90 minutes within each other’s personal space without the capability to have any sort of significant physical distancing in a small, enclosed room doing normal things such as breathing, sweating, coughing, and sneezing. All of these actions release aerosolized particles that may contain virus into the room, which usually cannot be as well ventilated as a medical facility. While in medical facilities, the personnel must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) that can mitigate the risks of transmission but not negate them entirely. We have considered whether at-home outdoor sessions might be feasible, but we have concluded that even outdoors we cannot ignore the proximity and time risks without access to higher-level PPE.
The new requirements put forth by the State of Connecticut calling for more stringent disinfection yet allowing less than ideal PPE for us are not enough to minimize the risk of us, your massage therapists, becoming a vector for this disease and possibly passing it on to one or more of you unknowingly, or vice versa. Therefore, in our opinion, continuing to practice massage therapy during this uncertain time goes completely against our greatest principle with which we serve our clients ─ “Do no harm.”
In light of the current situation, we have decided to suspend both of our practices through the summer and re-evaluate this position in the Fall when, hopefully, further evidence-based information and the necessary PPE become more readily available. This decision does not come without a lot of soul-searching; we miss working with all of you so very much, and this work is our passion. We became massage therapists because we care about people and want to help. For now, the best way we can care about you and for you is not to perform massage.
Because we feel so strongly about this, we will not be giving referrals to other massage therapists who have chosen to reopen. We completely understand that some of you may ultimately decide to receive massage from them anyway; we ask you once more to consider deeply the very real risks to you and others.
We ask for your understanding and will reconnect with you once we have made our evaluation in the Fall. Should you have any questions, we are happy to answer them. We look forward to a time when we can offer you those wonderful massages again without such concern for safety.
May you all stay well,
Jeannine Smith, LMT and Heidi Seaton, LMT