From NBC 15, April 2, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) — Some private practitioners who are not on the front lines of the pandemic are facing a difficult decision amidst the outbreak, with many wondering if they should continue serving clients, or close shop.

According to Governor Tony Evers’ Safer At Home order, “individuals may leave their residence to work for or obtain services at any Healthcare and Public Health Operations.” Included in those categories in the order are allied health providers, massage therapists, and chiropractors, among others.

Now, some of those private practitioners and other wellness providers deemed essential but not on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus are left juggling whether they owe it to their clients to be available for appointments, or whether they would rather close doors to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus.

“Is it moral to not help their patients, or should they not see people because they might transmit the virus, even unknowingly” said Susan Frikken, a physical therapist and massage therapist.

Frikken said that dilemma is being discussed among fellow private practitioners as they work through the ramifications of the coronavirus. While some are closing doors, others have found ways to continue to serve their clients in a way that is safe.

“I think there’s that struggle of these are peoples’ livelihoods, and if there’s a way that they feel they can do it safely, then they might explore that,” said Jamie Pekarek Krohn with Be Well Madison, a community of wellness providers. “And other people might be like no I just have to really step back and close my practice for now, and find new creative ideas to do, there’s still that ambiguity that’s out there.”

While those providers legally can stay open, Frikken said in following social distancing, it can be difficult for those whose fields require close proximity, if not physical touch, in treatments.

“I do a lot of what’s called manual therapy, so it’s a lot of hands on work with people,” said Frikken.

Now, Frikken said her business has largely come to a standstill.

“Unlike many of my colleagues in mainstream healthcare systems who are being repurposed now and moved away from their work to hospitals to help with the treatment and the screening, my business pretty much just stopped,” she said.

Before coronavirus caused her to suspend classes, Frikken was leading her program called Ballroom Basics for Balance, a course aimed at helping improve balance and prevent falls through dance.

While fields like Frikken’s may not be battling the pandemic, programs like her Ballroom Basics for Balance can prevent further injuries or falls from happening.

“Many of these people providing services that are so necessary right now and have clients that rely on these services for their wellness, whether it’s management or healing,” said Pekarek Krohn.

Now due to the virus, Frikken is providing online sessions when she can. However, in a field like physical therapy, virtual and verbal, rather than physical guidance, can be challenging.

“The weakest spot is probably the fact that a lot of people don’t have appropriate technology on their end, especially the older adults that I work with,” she said.

For other wellness providers, such as occupational therapists, telehealth can be a helpful substitute.

The choice to close doors, or a drop off in clients and loss of business, has led many to look for options to stay fiscally afloat.

“They’re connecting with the small business bureau and trying to get updated on loans that can happen, they’re talking with landlords how they can negotiate some rent, they’re stepping back and looking at their budgets in a whole different way,” said Pekarek Krohn.

In the meantime, Frikken said she will continue to do what she can to help clients virtually.

“I just want to keep people as well as possible until we can see each other again,” she said.