Hands-On to Limit Exposure

By Mikkel Hyldebrandt

As a certified and licensed massage therapist practicing in the Atlanta Midtown community for 25 years, Frank Santore had to put all his savvy as an entrepreneur and small businessperson to the test when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March. Peach spoke to Frank about navigating the pandemic landscape and how he keeps himself and clients safe in his one-person practice.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business?

The pandemic has greatly impacted my practice. So much so that I contemplated going back to school and starting a new career.  

How has it been working during this global pandemic?

Working during the pandemic has been a huge dilemma for so many of us. Forced to choose between shutting down to stop the spread of the virus and keeping a livelihood that pays the mortgage, utilities, and sustenance kept me up at night. 

What precautions have you taken in your treatment space and practice to provide a safe and healthy environment for yourself and your clients? 

I put a lot of research and effort into making my massage experience as safe as I can for clients, though I stress that until a vaccine is in wide distribution, there is no perfect solution.

Here is the thorough list of the new protocols I put into effect for my clients’ added protection.

  1. Daily appointments are limited to three per day, and more time is added between sessions to allow for a thorough disinfecting of surfaces and sanitation practices.
  1. During the scheduling process, clients are asked to answer health questions on a new Intake form. It includes new COVID-19-related questions as well as a consent waiver to be dated and signed.
  1. Cash is no longer accepted as a form of payment. Only online payments are accepted.
  1. Clients’ temperatures are to be taken at the time of entry into the building. Anyone with an above-average temperature (above 100 degrees) will be denied massage therapy.
  1. A mask is required to enter the building and is always to be worn. No exceptions. One will be provided if the client does not have one.
  1. Shoes are removed, and other personal belongings are stored upon entrance. I provide a container to safeguard clothing and personals during the session. 
  1. I installed an antibacterial hand soap dispenser and paper towel dispenser in the restroom. All clients are required to wash their hands appropriately before each appointment.
  1. The treatment room is equipped with a HEPA – Air Filtration system, specified to clear the air of particles from a room of that dimension at a rate of 99.99% in a sixty-minute time span.

Having lived and worked under a pandemic for so long, how has the demand for massage treatments changed?

The demand for massage therapy has greatly diminished during COVID, of course. But for many of my client’s massage therapy is not a luxury. Many require it as a therapy for pain management.

Besides following strict guidelines in your business, do you take other precautions in your personal life to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19?

Absolutely, I altered my personal and social life to limit exposure to COVID. I made the determination to isolate at home, wear a mask, and socially distance myself when in public. I get tested for COVID regularly as well. I have parents in their 90’s and have not been able to see them since the start of the pandemic. I stopped exercising at the gym and work out from home as an added precaution.

How will the vaccine impact your business, you think?

It is my belief that as more and more people become vaccinated, life will begin to return to a pre-pandemic way of life. My hope is that we will see a full recovery, and business will return to normal.

When will you be eligible for the vaccine as a healthcare worker?

I have already learned that I am eligible for the vaccine. I have signed up to schedule with the Fulton Co. Department of Health, The DeKalb Co. Department of Health and Emory Healthcare Systems. Unfortunately, though, I have not been able to receive the vaccine due to demand.

What have been some of the lessons learned – good or bad – during this crisis?

I have learned patience! Be it with persons refusing to wear masks, questioning temperature checks, rolling their eyes, and wanting to rush through the client intake, I simply smile and go on about my routine. My routine has worked. It has kept me and, to my knowledge, all my clients safe.

What is some good advice you can give other businesses during this crisis?

Do your due diligence, investigate how other businesses are coping with the pandemic. 

Devise a plan and follow it to the letter. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground in order to protect your customers from harm. Adapt and change the plan as new information is discovered. Be patient with each other and try not to let fear prevail. Knowledge and understanding of your clients’ needs and expectations regarding the pandemic are vital.

Anything you’d like to add? 

When It Is your turn to get vaccinated, GET IT DONE! We’re all counting on YOU!

Book your massage with Frank at FrankSantore.com.

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