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Lack of PPE leaves some Manitoba businesses unable to reopen

File photo of a barber wearing a mask while cutting a client's hair. .
File photo of a barber wearing a mask while cutting a client's hair. . The Associated Press

Massage therapists, dentists and hairstylists are preparing for a new normal that will see staff and even clients required to wear more personal protective equipment — if they can find it.

“Clients can expect their dental team is going to look a little different than before,” Manitoba Dental Association president Dr. Marc Mallot said.

“They are going to be wearing gowns, masks, they may have different shields over their eyes, they may have some enhanced coverings.”

READ MORE: What’s open in Manitoba amid the coronavirus pandemic

On Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister announced the province’s phased-in approach to re-opening the economy after coronavirus pandemic-related closures.

The plan does not mandate dentists, therapists or stylists to wear masks or gloves, but many businesses and organizations are making it a requirement for themselves.

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The Manitoba Dental Association is telling dentists to wear personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and gowns.

But Mallot says everyone is having a hard time getting their hands on any PPE right now as there is a supply shortage.

“Every health care practitioner, certainly in Manitoba, Canada and I might even say the whole world, is talking about this general shortage of PPE.”

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Many dental offices donated their gear to front-line workers early on in the pandemic and Mallot said they’ve asked all levels of governments to help them now, when they need it.

“The ask has gone federally, provincially and even locally,” Mallot said. “There are dentists on different chat rooms sharing PPE with each other.”

Dentists, massage therapists and salons who do reopen must follow new provincial guidelines meant to protect staff and patients from getting COVID-19.

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The measures include screening patients for symptoms before appointments, implementing physical distancing strategies in waiting rooms and common areas, and having everyone use hand sanitizer once inside.

The owner of Pure Escape Massage Therapy, Rosario Cesario, said it will not be opening its doors on Monday.

The company still needs to figure out its social distancing strategy, hire back staff and make sure they are comfortable — and they are still trying to procure PPE.

“Trying to find protective gear, trying to find masks and sanitizing solution. It’s not possible,” Cesario said. “I had ordered sanitizer stands a week before quarantine… I still haven’t received that order.”

READ MORE: Manitoba dental practices to begin reopening amid coronavirus pandemic, but not without anxiety

Tricia Weidenbacher, executive director of the Massage Therapy Association of Manitoba, said their group was surprised by the announcement to reopen so soon.

MATM represents 1,200 massage therapists in the province and said members are rushing to try to get PPE, but are having trouble finding any in time to open next week.

She said their members have a Facebook group they’ve been using to connect with each other. It’s also allowed members to help each other find supplies.

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The province is asking businesses to leave medical-grade PPE for front-line workers, but said cloth mask options may also be useful.

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“We have no opposition to it. It’s a choice,” said Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer. “It offers another layer of protection as restrictions are being lifted and we are still in a state of caution.”