Our COVID19 Risk Reduction Plan

We’ve spent the last 3 months learning everything we could to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID19 to our guests and employees. There is no perfect solution and every service will come with risks, despite our best efforts. We feel confident that, short of staying closed, we are doing everything within our power and we’re confident our guests will serve as our partners in risk management.

Social Distancing

This is a key to managing virus spread, but we won’t lie, this one tears at our hearts a bit. We went into these high-touch careers because we’re nurturers. We long for the “old days” when we’d spend a hectic Friday morning sharing treats (when will it be safe to offer someone a bite of your pastry again), laughing, and falling over each other as we set up for a day packed with our favorite guests. These days are temporarily on hold. Instead:

  • We’re dividing our employees into 2 non-intersecting teams until cases significantly decline in Polk County and we feel confident that a case on our team wouldn’t cause an outbreak or cluster. If we do have a case, we would only have to close 50%, instead of 100%.
  • We’re limiting the number of employees and guests in the spa at a time to about half what we normally have and extending hours until we can increase staffing levels.
  • We’re only having one receptionist on site at a time instead of two (please be patient with us, this is the biggest challenge!)
  • We’re temporarily disabling online booking until we have a better handle on staggering guest check-in and check out in accordance with new guidelines for spas.
  • We’re temporarily asking guests to wait in their cars and not bring others with them to their service to minimize the number of people in the spa at a time, in adherance with new guidelines for spas.
  • We split our cozy nail room into two separate nail rooms. Only one guest and one provider will be in a nail room at a time. It’s actually pretty awesome, we’re very proud of the safety measures we have in place for nails.
  • We’re temporarily unable to offer couple’s massages. While we know that couples are likely not distancing from each other, our employees are, and couples services make that tricky.
  • We have a great webstore so customers who can enjoy our products with quick shipping or parking lot pick-up!

Managing virus spread in the air

Our biggest concern is that viruses can linger in the air so the best thing we can do to reduce risk is to reduce the risk of inhaling droplets.

  • All employees will wear masks in public areas of the spa and treatment rooms.
  • Guests and visitors to the spa are required to wear masks or face coverings at all times, including during services. If you need a disposable mask, we’ll provide one before you enter.
  • Unfortunately, we’re temporarily unable to offer facials and lip/chin waxing as guests need to wear masks too, but we have a great temporary menu with some alternatives.
  • We have to suspend our complimentary beverage service temporarily, but we’ll offer every guest a hot or cold beverage to go.
  • We’ve installed plexiglass barriers at the desk and in the nail room at manicure and pedicure stations as an added barrier in addition to masks, especially as guests and providers will be in prolonged close face-to-face contact.
  • Employees will have options for face shields in addition to their masks if they wish.

Hand hygiene and reducing surface contamination risks

We’ve always used recommended cleaning protocols and gloves for services where we could come into contact with mucus membranes or blood, but we’ve kicked it up for your comfort and we’ll be more visible about it.

  • We’ve switched to wipes exclusively instead of sprays and wipes to clean surfaces. These hospital grade wipes have a shorter surface contact time to kill COVID19 and other viruses and bacteria.
  • We will continue to wear gloves when it makes sense (waxing, manicures, and when we offer them again, facials) but we don’t plan to add gloves to massage. Proper handwashing and hand sanitizer is more effective for services where there isn’t a risk of coming into contact with blood or mucous membranes. If you’d prefer your massage therapist wears gloves, let us know. We certainly can, but we massage with our hands, forearms, and elbows (then properly wash thoroughly) so it isn’t really helpful.
  • Table coverings: We’ve added waterproof coverings to all pillows including body pillows, and to our table warmer. All can be thorougly sanitized with our disinfectant wipes. We switched out heavy blankets for heavy towels so we can launder them more rigorously.
  • The front desk area and common supplies like ipads and pens will now be cleaned with hospital-grade wipes regularly.
  • We’re offering more ways for guests to do forms and even check in and out from their own device!
  • We’ll require a credit or gift card on file for no-contact check out.
  • In-spa restroom high-touch surfaces will be wiped down after every use and thoroughly sanitized daily. The common area cleaning crew hired by our landlords has been doing an excellent job cleaning common spaces outside of the spa.
  • We’ve got hand sanitizer everywhere you turn and guests will be expected to use it before and in some cases, during services. We will do the same!

Employees won’t work sick, please don’t visit us when you’re sick!

  • I can’t stress this enough, we’ll need guests to cancel when they are even a bit sick. We’ve always asked clients to do this, but it is a matter of utmost importance now. We are waiving cancellation fees for any amount of notice if guests cancel for COVID19 reasons.
  • If our employees are at all under-the-weather or have been exposed to COVID19 in or out of work, we will cancel or reassign their services until we have more information. We’ll be erroring on the side of caution, so please understand if this impacts your service.
  • We’ve got a detailed plan for testing, tracing, and notification if an employee is suspected of having COVID19 or has been exposed.
  • All guests must agree to contact us ASAP if they learn they may have had COVID19 at the time of a visit so we can follow our testing, tracing, and notification protocols while maintaining confidentiality.
  • We are not doing temperature checks unless we have a concern. We do have a no-contact thermometor at the ready. Here’s why: The majority of people who have COVID19 will not present with a fever or will be PRE-symptomatic at the time of a visit. We worry that fever checks cause people to let their guard down. I’ve consulted with salons and spas who are open and doing temperature checks. Most have found the only people with a “fever” are those who have been waiting in a hot car, and their temperature drops after a few minutes in the air conditioning. We’ll assume every person we encounter is an asymptomatic carrier to ensure we use best practices.
  • We are temporarily asking all guests to complete a COVID19 intake prior to all sessions. We appreciate your patience as this quick form will help make everyone (including YOU) safer.

Understanding health risks after COVID19 recovery or with lesser understood symptoms

The last thing that’s kept us on our toes with our reopening preparation is reading up on potential contraindications with some of the vascular symptoms and issues caused by COVID19 and what that could mean for our services.

  • Our massage therapists will be asking additional questions of people who have had COVID19 to check for potential modifications they need to make due to blood clotting and other vascular challenges.
  • All of our providers will will be on the look out for skin changes and potential symptoms on the extremities and toes.
  • We are committed to continuing to read and research the latest information on how we can help people who have recovered from COVID19 in the safest way possible.

Thank you, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably as concerned as we are about health and safety. If you have any questions before or during your session, please let us know. We’re eager to serve you again and we are sincerely grateful for your patience as we start over and continue to fine tune our processes in this ever-evolving situation.

Predicting the future for our spa

I wish we had a crystal ball to tell us exactly what things would look like 3 months, 6 months, and a year from now for spas. All we have have to go by is ever-evolving information from trusted health authorities and advice provided to other other health professions. We’re closely monitoring countries that are further down the road in battling the COVID19 pandemic.

We’ve been doing the heartbreaking task of cancelling all appointments on our books through July (and will likely continue to do so further out.) Realistically, I’m not sure if we can open in any safe capacity by July. When we do open, the existing appointments on our books won’t match the new realities of our schedule. I promise, WE WILL REOPEN.

We aren’t sure of every safety measure we’ll need to implement, but these are a few ways the spa will be a bit different for awhile:

  • The biggest change: Two distinct teams that don’t overlap any shifts, providers, or receptionists. We see this in some essential offices like veterinary clinics. This ensures that if a team member is exposed to COVID19, we won’t need to 100% close our spa again. We can at least operate at half capacity, especially if widespread testing isn’t available.
  • We will offer longer hours to reduce the number of employees and guests in the spa at a time, increase the time between services, and stagger check-in and check-out times to keep you safer.
  • We won’t be able to book groups of more than two until the COVID19 threat is under control.
  • You can still shop online to save a trip into the spa!
  • We will require masks for providers and guests, which could pose a challenge for some services (facials, lip waxing) if can’t work around a mask.
  • We may have to do enhanced health screenings and lean into low-contact check-in/check-out (online intakes, cards on file, etc…) options.
  • We’re researching alternatives to table warmers. While they’re under multiple layers of linens, they can’t be cleaned in the way we’d like when facing a pandemic. We will not use them until the risk of COVID19 has passed or until we find a safe solution.

It isn’t all doom and gloom!

Check out this video I filmed with my dear friend, Tricia Rivas, owner of Trixie’s Salon and founder of the Dreamcatcher’s Foundation. When this is all over, you’ll see some positive changes in the spa and salon professions.

Spa professionals like massage therapists and especially estheticians have been named some of the professions with the highest risk of contracting COVID19 at work. I would rather wait to open until we have a better idea of safety modifications than put my employees, their families and guests at risk to make money. This might mean we don’t open the day we’re given the legal “go ahead.” I PROMISE we will be back and you can rest assured that when we return, it will be with a very comprehensive plan for safety.

Top skin issues and solutions during the pandemic

Stress, poor diet, lack of motivation for personal care (let’s face it, the Zoom videos are grainy!) are causing lots of skin issues. Providers on the front lines wearing N95 masks all day are faced with raw, irritatied skin. Don’t wait for spas to reopen, it will be awhile before we can safely perform facials. Fortunately, you can do a TON with a great home care regimen. Camille Arbegast, a Licensed Esthetician, shared a few solutions if you’re experiencing skin challenges right now.

Camille Arbegast, Managing Esthetician at East Village Spa
Camille Arbegast, Managing Esthetician at East Village Spa

Solutions for stress-related skin freak-outs

Camille suggests Rhonda Allison’s Mandelic Arginine Serum for a gentle, daily exfoliation to curb breakouts from stress and also help calm rosacea flare-ups.

With weather (slowly) warming up, it might be time to switch to a lighter moisturizer. Camille recommends the Mandelic Au Lait, which is medium weight and has ingredients that also help calm breakouts and reduce redness.

Outdoor must-haves

Socially-distant outdoor activities like gardening, long walks, or supervising kids in the yard, are stress-busting musts for many of us. Rhonda Allison has two great sunscreen options. 1. eZinc is best for those with concerns about breakouts or redness. It is light weight and doesn’t have that sunscreen smell or feel. 2. Daytime Defense is ideal for those wanting to get pro-youth antioxidants.

Beta Green Tea Cleanser is great for AM and PM and one of our most popular clenasers. It has a small amount of salycilic acid to deeply cleanse sweat and dirt without drying skin. For best results with any Rhonda Allison cleanser, start with dry skin (or just put a few drops of water on your fingers) and massage in your cleanser that way first, before adding water. You’ll get a better cleanse and your product will last longer!

The Arnica Therapy is a staple of the Rhonda Allison line and is a natural antibacterial cream. It is great for cuts, burns, wounds, or bug bites.

Medical-grade PPE relief

Our front line medical providers and support staff are heroes. Many of have seen photos of the raw skin caused by wearing N95 masks all day. Camille suggests a 3 step approach to ease pain from the irritation caused by these masks. 1. Rhonda Allison Creamy Milk Cleanser, a gentle and soothing cleanser. 2. Rhonda Allison Arnica Therapy, a barrier for skin before the mask goes on. 3. Rhonda Allison Drops of Essence, a soothing gel for after cleaning at the end of the day to help ease discomfort.

We took her suggestions and created a specially priced Face Mask Relief kit that you can purchase for a front line healthcare worker who is struggling with pain from their mask.

Rhonda Allison Skincare for face mask irritation.

Poor diet, dehydrated skin

Listen, we won’t tell you what to eat in times of stress and I pity the person who gets between me and my “secret” chocolate stash right now. We WILL gently suggest that you increase your water intake. All of those Zoom Cocktail hours and extra coffees are going to take their toll on your skin. Tired of water? Try adding some calorie free, sugar free, caffeine free Pure Inventions extracts to your water. For a delicious “mocktail” mix your favorite drops with sparking water and drop in a few frozen blueberries and a lemon wedge.

Blueberry Lemon mocktail at East Village Spa

We can’t wait to be able to give you professional facials and Hydrafacials again, but don’t neglect your skin while you wait for your esthetician to be able to safely provide services to you. Take control of your skin and start or continue good habits at home now!

Blog contributors: Camille Arbegast is the managing esthetician at East Village Spa, where she’s worked since 2012. Cassie Sampson, BA, LMT is the owner of East Village Spa.

How you can support East Village Spa during the COVID-19 pandemic

Most of what I could say about my feelings as a business owner and employer during this pandemic have been said, far more eloquently, by others. I’m not alone in my fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and sadness. Whether your job is slammed, you’re bored and lonely, or you’re working in close quarters with children while also being their cook and teacher… this is, as mom would say when we were kids, “the pits.”

As we’ve been reaching out to guests to cancel months worth of spa services that, oh the irony…everyone suddenly has the time and SUPER need for… our guests have been fantastic. Many have asked what they can do to support us. Here’s a simple list, not just for supporting East Village Spa, but many small businesses.

  1. Reach out! Literally, just by checking up on us, we know you care and you give us hope that things will eventually be ok when we re-open. It means the world.
  2. Send a note or post a review for us to share with your providers. The CARES act will ensure that they are financially set throughout their furlough (a huge relief for owners) but many are struggling because their career is their passion and they’re wondering (and worrying) about their guests. We’re checking e-mails every weekday. We’ll forward well-wishes and any Yelp or Google reviews to them!
  3. Shop online! As long as we’re allowed to come in and ship, we are doing whatever it takes to get you products to help you reduce stress and pain while you’re isolating and feel confident for all of those Zoom meetings. We have an amazing new web store with almost every product we carry!
  4. Engage with us on Facebook and Instagram. We’re keeping our skills sharp and minds occupied by generating lots of content in our downtime. We can help via knowledge until we can physically help again.
  5. Purchase a gift card: We PROMISE we will re-open. We were in a fortunate spot as we were saving for some big non-essentials for a few years. We will definitely reopen, but any online gift card sales now not only help us financially, but give our spirits a boost.
  6. Avoid temptation to ask providers to work in secret. Many people see this as an offer of help. The CARES act has made sure providers receive good compensation during their furlough. Asking them to violate the law and risk their health makes them uncomfortable. Whether it is your hairdresser, esthetician, nail tech or massage therapist, know they’re thinking about you and WISHING they could help. There is no safe way to do services because of the nature of this virus and if you DID get an amazing manicure right now, everyone would know you’re not following the rules. By the end of this, crazy hair, unruly cuticles and bushy brows will be “Covid-Chic” Take this opportunity to grow your leg hair long enough to try waxing when we open again!

We look forward to seeing all of you when it is safe. We’re realistic and cautious, so we don’t expect to reopen soon. We most recently pushed our open back to May 1st, but a summer opening would probably be the best case scenario. Baby steps. Deep breaths. We’ll connect with all of you virtually until we meet again (and we promise to save you some chocolate at the front desk!)