Get The Facts(heet)
Whether we like it or not, we are moving forward with a new way of living and working with COVID, rather than reverting back to the before times. And this includes all states and territories, not just those with active COVID cases.
AMT’s Biosecurity Committee has been hard at work, getting all the research and data, putting it through rigorous analysis and figuring out how to help massage therapists with that move forward.
ACT based massage therapist, Greg Heard, is a member of the AMT Biosecurity Committee. When Greg stopped by Blog HQ this week, Blog staff were expecting him to bring a caramilk dump cake but instead, Greg handed over the new factsheets the AMT Biosecurity Committee have put together.
“I don’t even know what a dump cake is,” Greg explained.
While he was here, Greg shared his experience as a therapist working in the pandemic era as it was, and what his work will look like from now on.
Although being fully vaccinated may reduce my chances of becoming infected and of passing it on, the main benefits we can expect are that any symptoms that we develop will be mild, that we will not need to be hospitalised and that we are unlikely to die prematurely from an encounter with the virus. For how long and to what extent is unclear at the moment. It seems likely that we will need a third (booster) dose of vaccine next year (and possibly in subsequent years), because our immune response apparently declines with time and with changes in the virus.
I have to assume that anyone visiting the practice could be infected and infectious, regardless of their vaccination status.
AMT’s factsheet on vaccination includes information on the current vaccines, immunity and the implications for massage therapists.
You can read the vaccination factsheet here.
They key message from now on is to wear N95 masks, and that not just any mask will do.
When I returned to work after the ACT lockdown in 2020, although mask-wearing was not mandated, I chose to wear a mask for all client contact, because of my age, the vulnerability of other family members and some of my clients. Until now, I have been using re-usable and washable, double-layer, cloth masks. When I resume working, I will be wearing N95 masks, because they are made to Australian standards, whereas cloth masks are not. Clients attending for massage will be asked to wear an approved brand of surgical mask.
You can read AMT’s mask factsheet here.
AMT has been ahead of the curve on ventilation, evidenced by the risk assessment tool produced by the AMT Biosecurity Committee in 2020. Greg explains what happens inside the treatment room during a massage.
Ventilation – exchanging stale air for fresh air – in the rooms is an ongoing challenge. My solution has been to leave the door and window open in one room, after I have completed surface cleaning and disinfecting, for the hour (or more) that I am working in another room. I have been using a carbon dioxide (CO2) monitor since June 2021 to monitor air quality while I work, and I have recorded CO2 concentrations in excess of 2500 ppm, depending on where I place the monitor within the room and the stage of the massage. Concentrations of around 400 ppm in outdoor air, and 600–800 ppm in a room are considered acceptable; higher concentrations indicate that the air is stale and can be a proxy measure of virus concentration and low oxygen availability (which can lead to drowsiness). During the Canberra winter, I have used the air conditioners to warm the rooms during sessions with clients, but, from now on, I will not be able to continue doing that (or use it for cooling during the forthcoming summer), because of the potential that now exists for spreading the virus. I cannot use the windowless room for sessions longer than 60 minutes, because the CO2 levels exceed 1200 ppm after that time.
You can read AMT’s ventilation and air purification factsheet here.
Even within my practice – I am a contractor – circumstances differ among therapists and support staff; each of us has to continue to assess our individual risks and determine the advisability of our working.
AMT COVID resources
You can access all of AMT’s COVID resources here.
You can get your sugar levels to spike here.
Greg Heard has worked as a massage therapist for 10 years, the past four of them in the ACT. Before that, he worked as a researcher in Australia and the United States, a biomedical editor and a health service manager in public health. Greg has been contributing to the work of AMT’s Biosecurity Planning Committee since it was established in April 2020. He doesn’t always wear high-viz clothing in the kitchen, and his unkempt head and facial hair is a COVID lockdown project.