All around the world, COVID-19 has completely altered every aspect of daily life. For this generation, the virus has taken an unprecedented toll through sickness and the loss of life, with over 6 million confirmed infections and more than 380,000 deaths. Countries went into near total lockdowns in order to mitigate the damage, which has shown to have been effective. The downside is that keeping people at home devastated the global economy.
Few industries have been hit as hard as our beloved tattoo industry, but we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many states have allowed tattoo shops to reopen, with many more to do so in the coming weeks. But the world is completely different now, and the way that people will have to do business has changed. Shop owners need to consider making changes to the way a tattoo shop operates in order to limit the risk of infection from COVID-19. One way to do so would be to become trained in how to combat airborne pathogens.
Ben Pfeiffer, CEO of Indigo Medical Training, has worked alongside the tattoo industry for years as a provider of bloodborne pathogen training. As COVID-19 was spreading around the world, Pfeiffer recognized that a potential need, so he and his team sprung into action. “Nobody really knew the extent of COVID-19, there was so much uncertainty,” Pfeiffer explains. “But there was also so much desire to create something that could actually help the situation. We decided that since we had a long history of developing medical training courses online, as well as access to a lot of experts, that this is something I wanted to move forward with because it could definitely help the country.”
Under normal circumstances, developing a course like this takes between six months and one year. But as we’ve all learned, we are not living through normal circumstances. Pfeiffer and his team were able to design a course in airborne pathogens in about a month. They worked through late nights and weekends, all while dealing with the challenge of working remotely for the first time.
In order to understand how COVID-19 works, Pfeiffer and his team worked closely with a group that had been on the frontlines of one of the nation's earliest hotspots. “The course was helped developed by one of the sanitization companies from Seattle, Washington, that sanitized a lot of the assisted living facilities where it initially broke out,” Pfeiffer explains. “These guys had to literally go into a hot zone when we didn’t yet know much about the virus, and create protocols to sanitize an entire building where people had been dying left and right.”
Using the knowledge from the frontlines and combining it with regulations issued by OSHA and the CDC, the Indigo team got to work developing their online training course. The driving thought was that as the economy opens up, people who have never had to deal with any sort of pathogen training will need to learn new protocols. A barber or a department store employee has never had to consider any of these concepts during their day-to-day job. Tattooers, on the other hand, already have an understanding when it comes to bloodborne pathogens and avoiding cross-contamination.
“We really looked at this from a tattooist’s perspective, interestingly enough, because of our experience with bloodborne pathogens and the fact that we have certified so many tattooists,” Pfeiffer explains. “[Tattoo artists] are really proactive in terms of their education, and really proactive when it comes to protecting their customers.”
The course is inexpensive (currently on sale for $14.95) and completely online, so it is accessible, even during a time of belt-tightening like this one. As organizations such as the CDC and OSHA learn more about COVID-19, the course will be updated to reflect this new knowledge. The course is also not limited to just COVID-19, but covers most airborne pathogens including tuberculosis, so it will be relevant knowledge for quite some time.
Pfeiffer believes that as the world tries to cope with this coronavirus, training like this will end up becoming mandatory, especially for businesses eager to keep their customers safe. As tattoo shops open up, Pfeiffer wants to do all that he can to make sure that he can help them do so safely. “We’re committed to our tattooist clients,” Pfeiffer says. “They are some of our favorites and we worked really hard to attract them as customers. They mean a lot to us, so we want to continue that relationship with the industry going forward and we think that this will be helpful.”