SSMT and COVID-19
May 17, 2021 update: Since reopening in September, more than 9 months ago, no one – no student, instructor, administrator, clinic client, or visitor – has contracted COVID-19 on the SSMT campus. We have quarantined several classes for 14 days after someone in the classroom contracted COVID-19 outside school, but none of the quarantined students or instructors developed COVID-19.
Since reopening, our building has seen more than 60,000 person-hours indoors. That we have had students (rarely – just four times) practice massage for five hours in class with a partner at the peak of pre-symptomatic COVID-19, without contracting the disease from that partner, tells us out policies work.
This has been quite a year for everyone on the planet. For anyone like me, who has built a life – and a living – out of close human interaction, it has been a time for deep reflection.
Close contact with people increases the risk of infection from COVID-19. That risk increases further when contact is closer than 6 feet, and even further when it occurs indoors for durations longer than 10 or 15 minutes.
It is impossible to give or receive massage from 6 feet away, in 15 minutes, or limit classes to such a short duration.
Fortunately, we know more about how to minimize risk, even when meeting indoors for hours, than we did last spring.
SSMT reopened for live classes September 8, having held only theory classes online since March. We used the time live classes were paused to follow closely what scientists were learning about COVID-19, and how to minimize its chance of spread. We watched as other massage therapy schools around the country resumed live classes over the summer, and were pleased to note that – with a few precautions – spread in the classroom seems rare.
While we have watched other schools, open during the summer 2020 surge, send students home for quarantine because a student tested positive, we did not see a single case where a positive student spread the virus to others in the school. All the schools we’ve been in touch with require masks, some have air purification, but none have all the safety measures SSMT has adopted.
While there is no guarantee that any close human interaction is safe from spreading COVID-19, SSMT has adopted every measure that has worked in other schools, and other settings. Each measure is described in detail below the list. A few of the procedures below have been edited to update the most recent changes we’ve made to our policies.
- Ventilation – Air exchanged with the outside environment at least once every 45 minutes
- HEPA filtration – Air filtered through HEPA filters about every 8 minutes
- UV-C and Ionizers – HVAC system fitted with the only air purifier approved by NASA
- Face Masks – Except those that provide a CDC vaccination card, everyone in the building is masked always.
- Disinfection – SSMT disinfects all surfaces twice each day with the most non-toxic disinfectant on the FDA’s approved list.
- Physical Distancing – Except for trading partners and practical instructors, everyone maintains at least six feet of distance – and often much more
- Online Instruction – Some science and theory classes are held online
- Limited Class Size – to accommodate distancing, class size is limited
Ventilation – There is a vent in the exterior wall allowing outside air into the HVAC system, so fresh exterior air is cooled and pumped into the classrooms and offices. The four classrooms have exhaust fans that draw air up and out of the room through the roof. The entire volume of air in the classrooms is exchanged every 45 minutes. These rooms are also used as student clinic rooms.
HEPA filtration – There are two HEPA filtration units in each classroom, and similar units in the offices, library, bathrooms, and reception area. These turn over the entire volume of air in the classrooms over seven times each hour, passing it through what is essentially an N95 mask for indoor air.
UV-C and Ionizers – SSMT has installed Aerus Air Scrubber units in each of the four HVAC units. These have the same technology used on the space shuttle, and function whenever the unit is cooling (or heating). They pass the air through UV-C light, and produce hydroxyl ions, peroxides, and oxygen anions that are safe for humans, but attach to pathogens, pulling them out of the air, and killing them. SSMT installed the model without ozone, since ozone may have negative effects on health. We don’t expect these ionizers have nearly the effect that HEPA filters do, but every bit helps.
Face Masks – Since March 2020, there has been much research on mask effectiveness, and we have followed it closely. In March it was thought that cloth masks might protect others a small amount, but probably not the wearer. It is now clear that well-made, well-fitted masks significantly, though not perfectly, protect both the wearer and others. Students, instructors, administration, staff, and all visitors to SSMT wear face masks, with a nose-wire, that covers the nose and mouth, and fits without gaps all around.
Not all masks are created equal. Numerous studies have confirmed that bandanas and handkerchiefs do not significantly filter droplets. A study at Duke University demonstrated that polyester/spandex gaiters break large droplets into smaller ones, causing them to remain in the air and be inhaled deeper into the respiratory tract. These gaiters are actually more dangerous to both the wearer and others than no mask at all. SSMT provides a list of comfortable, realtively effective cloth masks, and provides ASTM rated surgical masks (that filter particles as small as .1 micron) for anyone who needs one.
Disinfection – SSMT disinfects all surfaces twice each day with Oxivir, a hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant. It is a potent virucide, non-toxic to humans. (We do this mostly for general hygiene; scientists no longer think COVID-19 is spread from surfaces).
Physical Distancing – Everyone in the building maintains at least six feet of distance – and often much more, except when doing massage. Partners practicing massage are more than six feet from others at the next table.
Online Instruction – Now that we have resumed live classes on campus, most classes are held live on campus. Students will continue to attend some science and theory classes online. The online classes are streamed live, and include opportunities for participation. SSMT has created dynamic and effective visual presentations to anchor lectures and discussions. Students’ performance and enjoyment of online classes has generally been similar to what occurs in live classes.
Limited Class Size – To accommodate distancing, class size has been limited, depending on the classroom. Update June 19, 2021: We have started eleven classes since the pandemic began, including groups that started online in the spring and summer of 2020. Nine of the eleven classes have had wait lists. People exploring the possibility of attending SSMT are encouraged to begin the process early.
SSMT enthusiastically encourages all students, graduates, staff, and all other eligible Florida citizens to register to vote by clicking here.
Primary elections for the Democratic and Republican Primaries will be held in March; you have to be registered to vote. Registering is really easy. Click here to register, print a paper registration form, or pick one up at the SSMT Front Desk or Admissions Office. We will gladly stamp and mail your completed form for you if you’d like!
Join us for our Open House Discovery Experience on Friday, December 13th from 1:15 to 4:00pm.
Meet and mingle with graduates, current students, faculty, administration, and potential employers as you enjoy complimentary chair massage and refreshments, as well as a complimentary class on Treating Headaches and a short informational session. Discover more about our massage therapy program and the opportunities that exist for LMT’s.
RSVP by calling us at (941) 957-0577. We hope to see you there!
Scholarships and grants are gift aid; money that does not need to be repaid. Sarasota School of Massage Therapy students may qualify for a variety of scholarships and grants.
SSMT offers need-based scholarships to students who qualify, and the US Department of Education offers two types of need-based grants to SSMT students who qualify.
You can find out if you qualify for any (or all three) of these grants with a single, free, online application, the FAFSA.
These amounts are based on several things, including your income (and parents’ income, if you’re a dependent student), family size, and other factors. Just enter the SSMT school code (016937) when you complete the application, and SSMT will receive the information we need from the Department of Education to determine the amounts of any federal aid you may qualify for (including the two grants). It will also allow us to determine the amount of SSMT’s need-based scholarship you may qualify for.
Update Monday 9/2/19 11 AM
SSMT will be open all week.
There is no longer any risk of hurricane force winds on the gulf coast of Florida. There is a slight chance of tropical storm force winds (less than 20% from Venice to Bradenton); if that materializes, we will revisit this.
Update Saturday 8/31/19 8 AM
The forecast now likely spares Sarasota and Manattee Counties. At this point we are planning to be open on Tuesday, but this is still subject to change as the forecast becomes clearer.
It looks like southwest Florida will likely experience the effects of Hurricane Dorian. If we close the school, this post will be updated to reflect that. School closings will be announced on the school’s voice mail and the class facebook pages, in addition to this post.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) currently predicts the storm to pass north of us. The NHC points out that their forecast this far out (over five days for Sarasota) has an average error of about 200 miles, which means the storm might not affect us, or the eye might cross the state, pass right over us, and head into the Gulf.
We could be experiencing tropical storm force winds, and heavy rain, for 3 full days, beginning Sunday.
The greatest likelihood at this point is that we will experience tropical storm force winds while a major hurricane batters the east coast. The current prediction is for the worst damage to be on the east coast, and north of us.
Even though we are likely to be spared the worst of it, there is a very good chance (the NHC currently has it at 65%) that we will experience at least tropical storm force winds and a lot of rain. The ground is already soggy, and it won’t take much to uproot trees, and down power lines. We could experience heavy flooding and loss of power.
We urge everyone to prepare for for a significant storm. If your pet is not current with vaccinations, it may not be taken at a shelter, so get your pet vaccinated before the weekend.
Heading back to school can be stressful for both kids and parents. Scrambling for school supplies, shoes, backpacks and uniforms; meeting teachers; hauling multiple boxes of crayons, scissors, and paper to classrooms – all take a toll! Yet, while the slower pace of summer is enjoyable, the consistency of the school year can provide relief for some families, and allow time for new projects.
So what about going back to school yourself, even if you have your own kids in school? The majority of SSMT students have children under 18 at home, and they not only find it manageable, but many also say their kids are inspired by seeing their parents studying and pursuing their dream. Our next classes start in September, so you can get through the August rush with your kids before focusing on your own education.
Our massage therapy students who attend day classes either take advantage of a Before-Care Program at their child’s school or they have a family member drop the child off in the mornings. Many schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties have low-or no-cost Before School programs. SSMT day students finish class at 1:00 – before their children have been dismissed for the day. Most evening students have help with their kids from family members while they attend classes – just three evenings per week.
Your children can also affect your own financial aid eligibility. The number of children you support is reported on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and impacts your grant and scholarship eligibility. The SSMT administration and staff want to see every student succeed. We want to help you figure out if this is the right path for you and make sure you’re set up for success, whatever your situation may be. Having kids go back to school can be a great time to consider enriching your own life as well.
In the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, here are some of the research findings (accumulated by Tina Allen, at the Liddle Kidz Foundation®) on massage therapy and autism.
Research indicates that massage therapy may promote more on-task and social relatedness behavior during play among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Improvements in this area can have a profound effect on quality of life.
There is evidence that children with ASD show less erratic behavior, are more attentive, and demonstrate reduced touch aversion and withdrawal after receiving massage therapy. Over time, touch therapy also helps the child to become more accustomed to tactile stimulation and aides in body awareness. Often by incorporating massage therapy into daily routines, children with Autism experience decreased issues with sleeping.
And just as massage therapy can provide relaxation, stress reduction and calm muscle spasms in the general population, there is evidence that it can do the same in children with autism and ASD.
Happy National Voter Registration Day! SSMT enthusiastically encourages all students, graduates, staff, and all other eligible Florida citizens to register to vote by clicking here.
If you prefer to complete a paper registration form you can print one here, or pick one up at the SSMT Front Desk or Admissions Office. We will gladly stamp and mail your completed form for you if you’d like.
The deadline to register is October 9 for voting in the 2018 General Election on November 6. Register now!
The announcement of the death of Dr. Leon Chaitow is news of the passing of a giant. The British Osteopath was a leading voice in manual therapy for decades. He was the first osteopath appointed by the British government to a medical practice and he was the Editor-in-Chief of our profession’s only peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. He wrote more than 70 brilliant books and spoke around the world at schools and conferences of osteopathy, chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage therapy.
While SSMT has hosted some top names in our continuing education program, I am sorry to say we never brought Dr. Chaitow to Sarasota. I did see him speak in 2007 at the first Fascia Research Congress, which he helped organize, bringing the world’s top fascial scientists to Harvard Medical School to present their research to bodyworkers. He was an inspiring, eloquent, educated voice for manipulative medicine.
SSMT instructor and continuing education provider Chris Dux was fortunate to study Muscle Energy Techniques with Dr. Chaitow. While I never completed any formal training with him, I feel like I know and learned much from Dr. Chaitow through his writings and that brief moment in Boston sitting in an auditorium listening to him speak. I wonder how many others who never met him also credit him as one of their teachers. Thank you Dr. Chaitow, for a life of tremendous contribution.
SSMT turns 40 this year!
Among other celebrations, we’re looking for students, graduates or anyone who loves SSMT to become an Ambassador and run or walk with us in the Sarasota Music Half Marathon & Rockin’ 10k. Click here to sign up.
Whether you want to run like the wind or rock ‘n stroll with your friends while enjoying live music, this is the event for you! We are looking for students, graduates or anyone who loves SSMT to become an Ambassador and run or walk this race with us.
What comes with being an Ambassador?
• SSMT Performance T-shirt to wear on Race day
• Participate in a fun after-party in the SSMT tent
• Get two complimentary student massages at the student clinic during your training
• Join our FB group made especially to share experiences during training
• Have a team of local personal trainers to help you get ready
They will provide:
– Training plan for beginner/intermediate runners or one for walkers
– Initial team meeting with goal setting
– 2 yoga sessions with one of the trainers
– 2 track workout with one of the trainers
– 2 strength-training sessions with one of the trainers
– At least one of the trainers will be on hand race day.
Does this sound like fun? Well, NOW is the time to act.
Race day is February 3rd but the race sells out long before that! Click here to sign up.
Once you sign up, contact Susan Farhat to let her know you are registered. Then the fun begins! Don’t wait! Registration will close as soon as the race sells out, don’t miss the fun!