Health-proof your piano studio: Doctor-recommended steps [COVID-19]

I have a doctor in my family! My beloved sister and first piano teacher, Dr. Judy Price, is currently practicing medicine as a General Practitioner. We often talk about healthy living and health care, and this week I had the chance to pick her brain about how piano teachers can help to keep ourselves, our piano students and communities safe in light of the current global pandemic of the novel coronavirus – COVID-19. 

She took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions so that I can share these important messages with my blog readers. According to her, “This is as of today, but things change quickly with public health advice.” (In fact, we’ve updated information three times while writing this post!)

Health questions answered

RM: For piano teachers who continue to teach in person, what steps can we take to encourage a health-safe environment? 

DR. JP: Good question! The first thing would be to let each student and family know that they can be a part of containing the spread by doing a few important things.

Advise students to “self-isolate” from piano lessons and from ANY non-essential travel (essential would be for health reasons or for food) if: 

  1. they are sick with a cough or fever. 
  2. they have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of fever, cough and/or shortness of breath.
  3. they have returned from travelling to China, Iran, Italy or France in the past 2 weeks. [Updated: any international travel.]
  4. they have had contact with anyone who traveled to these places. 

RM: Why is this virus so difficult to contain globally? 

DR. JP: Because many governments on a national level delayed having a plan to reduce transmission and for testing, also for educating the public. For instance, teaching citizens to self-isolate, about social distancing, and to wash their hands regularly and not touch their faces! There are a few countries, like Taiwan, that implemented precautions early and they have a very low infection and death rate.

RM: What is known and unknown about COVID-19? 

DR. JP: We do know that the incubation period is about 14 days – from contact with someone sick to showing symptoms — and during the 14 days, you are able to infect others!

We also know that many people are “carriers” – have the virus, are contagious, and don’t know it as they have no symptoms, or very mild symptoms like a very mild cold.

We also know that the symptoms of infection are usually sore throat, fever, and shortness of breath as it only attacks the lungs. Not the sinuses or ears etc.

We also suspect that the virus survives about 6 – 24 hours on surfaces if just left and not cleaned. (A report several hours later suggests 2 – 3 days.)

RM: What is different about COVID-19 from other viruses? 

DR. JP: It’s different because not enough is known about it yet. We don’t know how infective it is (how many people who are exposed will get sick or become carriers), or how many people are actually dying from it, as not everyone who dies has been tested for this specific virus. Our federal government has set aside a large amount to study this and it’s a really good idea!

RM: I’d like to know your advice for someone who feels they are exposed.

DR. JP: Your healthcare system will likely have a number to call for screening. This will put you in touch with a Registered Nurse who can pre-screen you for symptoms and help you know what to do next. [Call 811 in NS.]

RM: What do piano teachers need to know about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19?

MD advises how to health-proof your piano studio

Disinfecting the studio

Where (what rooms)? The entrance, bathroom and teaching space.

Where (what surfaces)? Wipe all entrance surfaces including inside and outside door knobs, doors and trim etc., all bathroom surfaces including sink, taps, door knobs, doors and trim etc., and toilet (if your students use it), and all studio surfaces including piano [not just the keys, but the actual piano], piano bench, piano books, door knobs, doors and trim etc. If students touch light switches, clean these as well. An option is to leave lights on at this time so the switches don’t need to be touched.

What cleaner? You only need to use standard disinfectant like Mr. Clean or standard disinfectant wipes. These don’t have to be “anti-bacterial” as COVID-19 is not a bacteria! 

Any washable cloth is ok and used only once. Wipes are good too if used only once, and not to be used if they go dry.

If you handle the cleaning cloth with surgical gloves on, remove the gloves after a single use by pulling them off from the wrist and turning them inside-out, then throw them out. Change gloves with each use.

When? Disinfect before lessons each day, between all lessons and after you teach for the day.

Sound familiar? What cleaning your piano really sounds like.

Washing hands

How? Wash hands for at least 20 seconds under warm water with a good normal soap, doesn’t need to be anything special. Instead of a communal bathroom cotton towel, have single sheets of paper towel ready (so a student doesn’t handle the whole roll), and a garbage bin where each towel can be tossed after a single use and not handled again.

Who? Both the teacher and student should wash hands (as well as parents and siblings who stay) at the start of every lesson as described above for the full 20 seconds.

If your student uses a tissue, don’t just throw the tissue into the garbage before it touches anything, the student should also wash their hands again before touching anything.

Limit in-studio touching

Piano teachers try not to touch their own faces while teaching!

Ask your students to bring their own pencils and erasers to lessons, as it would be impossible for the teacher to disinfect these. 

It is not advised at this time that you allow students to touch your computer, iPad or any device. It is very difficult to disinfect electronic devices without damaging the circuitry. 

If you must disinfect your computer keyboard, do so with the keyboard upside-down so the liquid from the cleaning cloth is kept out by gravity. Wipe off with a dry cloth while still upside-down and let the keyboard dry further by setting it upside-down to air out.

However, simply don’t let students use your computer! If you are washing your hands, you won’t need to disinfect it.

DR. JP: “This is difficult to put into words, but having online piano lessons would be a good option. Explore that!”

To read some tips to get you started with online lessons, check out 6 Ideas to adapt your private teaching style to online lessons.

Do you like this post and want more? In the side menu click “follow” to get notification of my posts each week in your inbox.

I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching and please stay well!

Video of the week

Back Street Blues (Elementary) has a slow swing and the irresistible blues scale. It’s from Rock this Town, 11 Elementary piano works, solos and duets. Or, check out the studio-licensed eSheet for Back Street Blues!

Here’s a sound file for the piece Purple Mystery from The Color Collection Junior.

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