Now that the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays are behind us its important to take stock of where we are at in terms of the pandemic and what that means for access to massage services at our office.
First lets look at the current infection rates in Maine. Although Maine continues to have some of the lowest infection rates of the nation, we find ourselves currently at the highest level yet during the pandemic. It is estimated we will continue to see rising infection rates in our state for at least the short term. These are being driven mostly from community spread directly related to small groups and especially after the beginning of the holiday season. It took about three weeks for the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings to become apparent, and we can expect another jump from the Christmas holiday. Our County, Lincoln County, has the highest number yet of active infections. Unlike this past summer, the impact of COVID is closer to home and more a reality for many in our area.
The good news is the advent of new vaccines and therapeutics. Spring is not that far away though it may seem so. I remain hopeful that spring will bring a significant improvement on many levels. So its critically important we all remain vigilant with our safety measures and precautions. Also good news, there have not been any reported transmissions from massage services anywhere in Maine that I am aware of. This is in no small part due to the diligence on the part of massage therapist and practices throughout Maine.
Even though we have a significantly higher level of infections in Maine than we did in March when most non-essential businesses were forced to close, Maine now is doing everything possible to understand the current risk , stay on top of up to date science of the virus and its spread, and take a more selective approach to restrictions and the dire consequences businesses and the economy are facing because of it.
I am taking a similar approach at Tree of Life Center. In lieu of a complete close down which leaves many who need and rely on regular massage therapy who do not pose a risk of infection without it, I am making the effort to understand and respond to potential risk and remain available to as many of my clients as possible. As you may imagine, some determinations are more straight forward than others. This is a ever evolving effort and as such I will be reporting on changes and modifications as they occur.
As I have said in earlier post, what makes this virus so potentially transmittable is the fact that a individual without any symptoms may be infectious and because many of the typical symptoms of a COVID infection are similar to symptoms many people commonly experience anyway such at allergies and stomach disorders initially. Newer science has narrowed the field quite a bit which is helpful. Knowing a person is usually not infectious until about two days before symptoms appear and that a 10 day isolation is sufficient to the previous 14 day isolation requirements. We also now have a better understanding of how transmission is likely to occur with less concern about surfaces (though still important) and more importance placed on aromatic transmission.
For most people having COVID the symptoms are not serious and more like a common flu. But for others, even those without any significant symptoms, chronic health issues persist. And for a smaller group, the virus is deadly. Thus the best approach is one of prevention.
Because of the holidays and being indoors due to winter we are currently in the potentially highest risk time for the virus. As such, I am modifying my existing policies to further minimize the risk of infection for myself and family, for my clients, and for contributing to community spread. I know this will make it even more difficult for some of my clients already experiencing restrictive measures, I am truly sorry, but please bear with me, and know this will change for the better, and will not always be this way. We will get thru this, hopefully sooner than later.
Risk factor considerations for massage appointments.
Keep in mind, its not just the individual, its also everyone else living in the same household that has to be considered.
In all groups, I have to consider any group activities that could involve close contact or removing mask. This includes restaurants, clubs and bars, and church or social gatherings. (close contact is defined as less than 6′ apart for more than a total accumulated time of 15 minutes). Any visitors from outside the immediate household (even if its family). Any person traveling outside our immediate area, using commercial transportation, staying at hotels or with friends / family elsewhere. Doctors and nurses are considered on a individual basis. There is a significant difference between the risk of the operating room vs the emergency room. Nurses and attendants working in nursing homes are at a higher risk but because of proactive routine testing and safety protocols they are screened on a individual basis. Even within these groups each client is screened each time before their appointments. If there is any potential safety concerns we may simply set the appointment out far enough for the concern to be satisfied.
Now that vaccines are becoming available I am being asked if its ok to have massage right after getting vaccinated, if its ok not to wear a mask now they are vaccinated, and if they can still carry the virus. First, there is still much to be known about the new vaccines and what this means in terms of the questions above. The vaccines do not contain a live virus. The symptoms a person feels after a vaccination is that of their immune system kicking into action. Common symptoms such as soreness to the injected area, fever, fatigue, etc, all indicate the body is dealing with this. I believe its best to rest and support your body. A light massage for stress may be ok, whereas a intense deep tissue massage may put more stress on your system. Therefore i would assume its best to schedule your massage at least several days after each of the two vaccines. Even after your vaccinations it may still be possible to carry the virus if exposed and thus expose others. So it remains important to continue practicing CDC recommendations as before.
Testing is also becoming much easier and more accessible. Most insurance is covering the cost of testing. So far I am aware of three basic test available in our area.
- PCR test. If you have a prescription from your doctor the test results are usually back the next day and is covered by insurance. If you choose to get it on your own it cost over a hundred dollars and takes a couple days to receive results. These are available at Lincoln Health and Walgreens. These are the most accurate test.
- Rapid test. There are many new versions coming out, but I am aware of the Abbot test available at Walgreens. It may be covered by insurance but only cost $45. otherwise. You set up your appointment thru Walgreens.com and go thru the drive thru where they pass out the kit to you and you do the nasal swab on yourself. Results are back within 2-12 hrs. The rapid test does not pick up as fine a particle as the PCR test, but is said to be very accurate within the range a person is most likely infectious. (a current negative result is sufficient for your massage appointment providing no potential risk have occurred since the test was performed)
If you are concerned about a possible exposure or symptoms you are having its best to contact your doctor. Testing too soon will likely provide a negative result even though you may have the virus. I believe it takes about five days before the test can detect the virus.
For clients working in settings providing routine testing I recommend making your appointments for after your results come back and during a time when no questionable activity or possible exposure may occur.
Because of the amount of time necessary for my CDC compliance measures at the office I will continue to only see two clients a day at the most. However, in practice, most days I am typically only seeing one client or even none at all. Safety for everyone remains my top concern and focus. This puts extreme challenges on keeping the office open and viable. We appreciate your ongoing support and understanding. We will get thru this and hopefully be all the stronger because of it.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.