SSMT and COVID-19
Since reopening in September, 2020, 18 months ago, no one – no student, instructor, administrator, clinic client, or visitor – has contracted COVID-19 on the SSMT campus. We have quarantined more than a dozen classes 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 100,000 person-hours indoors. That we have had students 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 our policies worked.
With the decrease in prevalence as the Omicron surge is subsiding, we have relaxed some of our guidelines. Face masks are now optional for everyone, with an important exception: if you are giving or receiving massage in class, and your trading partner requests you wear a mask, that request will be honored. If a clinic client requests that the student working with them wear a mask, that request will be honored.
These policies are subject to change as conditions in the community change.
- Ventilation – Air exchanged with the outside environment at least once every 45 minutes
- HEPA filtration – Air filtered through HEPA filters 7.5-9 times per hour
- UV-C and Ionizers – HVAC system fitted with the only air purifier approved by NASA
- Online Instruction – Some science and theory classes are held online
- Limited Class Size – to accommodate distancing, class size is slightly smaller than before the pandemic.
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 (also used as clinic rooms) and offices. Each of the four classrooms has an exhaust fan that draws air up and out of the room through the roof. The entire volume of air in the classrooms is exchanged through these fans every 45 minutes.
Each classroom also has at least one window or door that can be opened to the outside. We often leave these open and compensate with additional air conditioning or heat to keep the room comfortable.
HEPA filtration – There are three 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 7.5-9 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 commercial grade UV-C units have nearly the effect that HEPA filters (or hospital grade UV-C units) do, but every bit helps.
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 – While it is impossible to practice massage six feet from your client, fewer people in a room improve its safety. Depending on the classroom, the limit before the pandemic was 16-20. The limit is now 14-16. Since the pandemic began, many people have been rethinking their career choices, and choosing to pursue massage therapy.
The increased demand combined with limited class size has caused many classes to have wait lists. People exploring the possibility of attending SSMT are encouraged to begin the process early.