NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

The Pandemic is Personal: Nadine Brumbaugh on giving up her massage therapy practice

Editor’s Note: Wel­come to The Pan­dem­ic is Per­son­al, a week­ly series focus­ing on on how the nov­el coro­n­avirus (SARS-CoV­­‑2) is affect­ing the every­day lives of peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west. We hope to enlight­en you and reflect on what you and oth­ers are address­ing as this pan­dem­ic runs its course.

If you have a sto­ry to tell, please feel free to con­tact us.

Nadine Brum­baugh is a long­time mas­sage ther­a­pist and “mas­sage geek” by trade. She lives in Seat­tle and loves learn­ing all she can about health and healing.

After near­ly a decade as a mas­sage ther­a­pist, the COVID-19 cri­sis has made it nec­es­sary for me to part ways with an avo­ca­tion I dear­ly love.

Help­ing oth­ers is impor­tant to me and it’s a part of my personality.

I remem­ber look­ing in the win­dow of a neigh­bor­hood mas­sage ther­a­pist’s office as a child and it spark­ing my inter­est. As an adult, I stud­ied at the Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Health Sci­ences and honed my ther­a­peu­tic mas­sage skills to an expert lev­el. It was very reward­ing to help peo­ple recov­er from car crash­es or be the per­son who could mas­sage an elder­ly client and know that your work allowed them to walk for two weeks or remain mobile and pain free for the next month.

It is with great dif­fi­cul­ty that I have left some­thing which allowed me to impact oth­er peo­ple’s lives in such pos­i­tive ways. How­ev­er, I see no oth­er choice.

As a mem­ber of the health­care com­mu­ni­ty, my duty is to ensure my clien­t’s safe­ty above all else. At this moment, ther­a­peu­tic mas­sage is an extreme health haz­ard which puts clients’ and ther­a­pists’ lives in seri­ous jeopardy.

I’m deeply dis­ap­point­ed that Wash­ing­ton State has clas­si­fied mas­sage ther­a­py as a “non-essen­­tial med­ical ser­vice” avail­able as ear­ly as Phase I of Wash­ing­ton state’s “Safe Start” reopen­ing program.

I’m upset that our state Depart­ment of health has declined to pro­vide guid­ance regard­ing how Gov­er­nor Inslee’s Procla­ma­tion 20–24.1, which reduces restric­tions for non-essen­­tial med­ical providers, applies to mas­sage therapy.

Every­thing I have read from the CDC and oth­er cred­i­ble sources clas­si­fies being with­in six feet of anoth­er per­son that is ill or asymp­to­matic for longer than fif­teen min­utes as “pro­longed expo­sure”. It is these pro­longed expo­sures in which the virus is not only trans­mit­ted but can expose a per­son to a lethal dose of the virus.

Increased dose of the virus (prox­im­i­ty x time) direct­ly cor­re­lates to COVID-19 sever­i­ty and fatal­i­ty. I can see no way that a mas­sage ther­a­pist or client would­n’t even­tu­al­ly fall ill with COVID-19 in this setup.

Phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing is impos­si­ble in mas­sage ther­a­py — no one is typ­i­cal­ly wear­ing N95 masks or the eye pro­tec­tion required by the guide­lines pro­vid­ed by Wash­ing­ton state’s Labor & Indus­tries Coro­n­avirus Haz­ard Con­sid­er­a­tions for Employers.

These guide­lines cat­e­go­rize mas­sage as “an extreme­ly high risk” for COVID-19 trans­mis­sion. So why is a job defined as “an extreme­ly high risk” for COVID-19 trans­mis­sion able to be open before low­er risk jobs?

If it’s con­sid­ered so safe at this point, why is it that my trade asso­ci­a­tion, the Wash­ing­ton State Mas­sage Ther­a­py Asso­ci­a­tion, appar­ent­ly believes that we can only per­form our jobs with a full set of PPE gear?

We have a very real poten­tial to be super spread­ers of a dan­ger­ous infec­tious dis­ease to our clients, our fam­i­ly and friends, our co-work­ers and to the public.

I fear that ther­a­pists will be forced to work in enclosed, poor­ly ven­ti­lat­ed rooms for up to two hours per ses­sion wear­ing a cloth mask (since N95 masks may be impos­si­ble to acquire as we’re con­sid­ered “non-essen­­tial”, and thus less like­ly to receive access to them) and with full skin con­tact… gloves or no gloves.

With many elder­ly clients, peo­ple with under­ly­ing health con­di­tions and some who are can­cer sur­vivors; those clients would have upwards of a 10% to 27% chance of death should they con­tract COVID-19.

I have also received a let­ter from my lia­bil­i­ty insur­ance that they are “high­ly unlike­ly” to cov­er any claims relat­ed to COVID-19 transmission.

Know­ing all this, is it even eth­i­cal to pro­vide mas­sage ther­a­py dur­ing this time?

Sad­ly, I’ve con­clud­ed it isn’t.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for shar­ing your touch­ing sto­ry! It’s unfor­tu­nate. These times are rough on every­one. Though it will be excit­ing to see how the future unfolds!

    # by Pearl Spa :: June 27th, 2020 at 2:38 PM
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