Seven U.S. states plus the District of Columbia now require employees and independent contractors who work in health care settings, which can include massage therapists, to get vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19).
Additionally, such requirements in both the District of Columbia and Washington State apply to all massage therapists, including those in private practice.
Among the regulations and executive orders issued by state governments, most pertain only to people working in such health care facilities as hospitals, chiropractic offices, hospice or others—which could include massage therapists who work in one of those types of medical facilities. These new rules were issued between mid-August or early September and go into effect soon.
Currently, seven states—California, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington—plus the District of Columbia, now require health care workers to become fully vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19); of those, two entities—the District of Columbia and Washington State—now include massage therapists in their category of health care workers who must be vaccinated in order to run a private practice. Many other states have recently re-issued indoor mask mandates and other safety guidelines.
Further, on Sept. 9, President Joe Biden announced new federal vaccine requirements for up to 100 million Americans, according to the Associated Press. As of this publication’s press time, it wasn’t yet known if, or how, that might affect massage therapists.
States requiring vaccination are noted below; for information about other new guidelines and regulations pertaining to any U.S state, visit MASSAGE Magazine’s webpage dedicated to state-by-state COVID-19 resources for massage therapists.
California: The California Department of Public Health issued two public health orders on Aug. 5. One order requires workers in health care settings to be fully vaccinated or receive their second dose by Sept. 30. This order applies to workers in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospice facilities and in many other health care settings, but does not mention independent massage practices specifically. There are exemptions possible for medical reasons or religious belief.
The second public health order directs hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and intermediate care facilities to verify that visitors are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 in the prior 72 hours before indoor visits.
For more information, contact the California Department of Public Health.
District of Columbia: A notice of emergency and proposed rulemaking issued Aug. 16 by the District of Columbia Department of Health states that vaccination against COVID-19 is required by health professionals who are licensed, registered, or certified by the Department of Health. The notice mentions massage therapy practices specifically.
The deadline for at least the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one does of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is Sept. 30. Additionally, by Oct. 1 no health professional may employ or contract with any person who is required to be vaccinated and is not so vaccinated. Exemptions will be granted based on medical conditions or religious beliefs.
For more information, contact the District of Columbia Department of Health.
Maine: A press release from the office of Maine Governor Janet T. Mills states that health care workers, defined as “any individual employed by a hospital, multi-level health care facility, home health agency, nursing facility, residential care facility, and intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities that is licensed by the State of Maine” be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. Possible exemption criteria were not mentioned in this announcement.
The State of Maine has required immunizations, including measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B, and influenza, of employees of designated health care facilities to reduce the risk of exposure to, and possible transmission of, vaccine-preventable diseases, the release stated. “This existing rule has been amended to include the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Maryland: A new protocol announced by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan requires nursing home and hospital staff to show proof of vaccination or undergo ongoing screening and testing for COVID-19. This is an instance where only massage therapists working in such facilities would need to comply with the vaccine mandate. “Staff includes, but is not limited to, regular and contractual employees, contractual staff, volunteers, and other state employees performing any duties at the facility,” the directive reads. Possible exemption criteria were not mentioned in this announcement.
Such employees were mandated to receive their first vaccine shot by Sept. 1; as of press time the date of the second shot deadline was not known, but the directive did state that the full vaccine course must be fulfilled.
For more information, contact the Maryland Department of Health.
New Jersey: An order issued Aug. 6 by New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy states that workers at health care settings including hospitals, surgical centers, long-term care facilities, substance abuse facilities and others require proof of full vaccination by Sept. 7 or COVID-19 testing one to two times per week. Possible exemption criteria were not mentioned in this order.
For more information, contact the New Jersey Department of Health, Commissioner’s Office.
Oregon: A news release from the office of Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced a new health safety rule for employees in health care settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
The new rule, a requirement to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, will be in effect starting Sept. 30, and applies to personnel in health care settings who have direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials. This means the rule would apply to massage therapists who work in hospitals or other business deemed health care facilities, but probably not to massage therapists in private practice. Possible exemption criteria were not mentioned in this news release.
For more information, contact the Oregon State Board of Massage or the Oregon Health Authority.
Rhode Island: An emergency rule titled “Requirement for Immunization Against COVID-19 for All Workers in Licensed Health Care Facilities and Other Practicing Health Care Providers” provided by Rhode Island’s Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea on Aug. 17 mandates that all health care providers be fully immunized by Oct. 1, 2021. There are some medical exemptions to this order.
Further, anyone working in a health care facility who is unvaccinated before Oct. 1 must undergo COVID-19 testing twice per week in order to work at the facility. After Oct. 1, unvaccinated health care workers will not be allowed to enter the facility.
Proof of vaccination needs to be entered into the Rhode Island Child and Adult Immunization Registry. For information on how to submit proof of vaccination, call (401) 222-5960 or email the Department of Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington: A proclamation issued Aug. 9 by Washington Governor Jay Inslee notes that a state of emergency continues to exist in all counties of Washington State and that all health care workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. There are exemptions for medical conditions, disability and religious belief. All employees, volunteers and contractors who also work in the health care setting must also be vaccinated.
Massage therapy offices, including designated areas where massage is administered within non-health care settings like spas and wellness or fitness centers, are included in this proclamation, as are inpatient rehab facilities, hospitals, chiropractic offices and more.
Health care providers must provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 by providing one of the following:
• CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or photo of the card;
• Documentation of vaccination from a health care provider or electronic health record; or
• State immunization information system record.
• Personal attestation is not an acceptable form of verification of COVID-19 vaccination.
For more information, contact the state board of massage or the Washington State Department of Health.
About the Author:
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief-print and digital. She has edited or reported for Imagine Magazine, the Sacramento Bee and Mid-County Post newspapers and more. Her recent articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Connect with the Benefits of Nature for Self-Care,”“As the Spa Industry Rebounds from COVID-19, Staffing Shortage Looms” and “This is How Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practices Make Business Better.”: