COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that forced the world to hit the pause button, has forever changed the way any business will operate in the future. At the height of the coronavirus outbreak, government officials reported that cases in the United States doubled every five days. States across the country responded with mandatory stay-at-home restrictions to stop the virus from spreading. Now, almost two months later, we are still learning new things about this virus; new symptoms to watch for and new ways by which it is being spread. As a nation, we are definitely swimming in uncharted waters.
I lived through the HIV Aids epidemic, the September 11 attacks, the recession of 2008, and now COVID-19. As the founder of Atelier Esthetique Institute of Esthetics and having served on the Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) Leadership Committee, I have been giving much thought to the subject of how to reopen skin care schools during this pandemic. As some states report a decline in cases, governors are starting to ease restrictions and are allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen, which includes private vocational schools Depending in which state you are located, your school will be allowed to resume operations, but it doesn’t mean you should, and it definitely will not be business as usual.
The health and safety of the schools’ students and employees is what should determine the decision by the school owner and management—not profits and return on investment. There will be increased expenses while student enrollments will be down. My best advice would be to counsel all staff and students that, as the science and medical experts learn more, the guidelines for operating schools will also change. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should be your only pilot to lead the way. Each school must be aware of all new laws and ordinances at the local, state, and national levels.
The esthetics industry has always taken universal precautions when it comes to sanitation and sterilization against blood-borne pathogens, but now we are fighting a respiratory infection that we are still navigating. Estheticians are part of the allied healthcare professions. We must think of ourselves not as dental hygienists but as skin hygienists as we will begin to use similar personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 masks under face shields, disposable gowns over scrubs, and gloves at all times in order to avoid cross contamination. There needs to be written protocols and videos detailing how to use all of these single-use disposable materials for administration and students in order to maintain clean classrooms. Proper infection-control practices will be a part of your work as an esthetician for your entire career.
The success of reopening your school depends on how safe and confident the teachers and staff feel about returning to work. My suggestion is to open your school with no students. Do a dry run for as many days as you need to resolve any issues. Conduct a "rehearsal" until each member of the team feels positively ready to welcome the students back to school. It doesn’t matter when you reopen your school, it matters that you do it right.
When you feel prepared to open your doors, new safety measures must be put into place and followed on a daily basis. Use stairs over elevators to ensure six-feet distancing. Screen for fever using a non-contact infrared thermometer. Check ventilation systems and use window airing when the room has been occupied by students. Sanitation and disinfection needs to be increased to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Assignments must be given to administration, students, and the cleaning personnel using a detailed checklist.
What is the protocol if either an employee or student has a fever? What is the protocol if a student shows symptoms during class? Everyone must be treated uniformly and indiscriminately. Whatever you do for one, you do for all. In my experience, the worst thing that could happen is that the instructors do not understand the new guidelines or how to implement them. There needs to be one voice. Every instructor and staff member must answer questions in the same way. Every instructor must teach the new protocols in exactly the same way.
As an industry, we are forever changed. It will take time to figure out the new normal. But, we will. Researchers are working feverishly to find potential treatments and vaccines. Schools will get through these trying times and emerge stronger than ever! For now, stay safe, wash your hands often, practice social distancing, and be kind. See you over the rainbow!
Article provided by:
Skin Care Expert and Consultant
For more details on reopening your school,
access the ASCP Back to School Guidelines.