COVID19

Inside XpresSpa’s Tough Road to Becoming an Airport COVID-19 Testing Center

Lately, Doug Satzman’s AirPods have been running out of battery multiple times a day. Satzman is the CEO of XpresSpa, and like the leaders of businesses across the country, he had a rough spring as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the U.S., shutting down cities in its wake. By March 15, Satzman had begun the process of furloughing the nearly 500 employees who work at the airport spa chain. With 46 locations in 23 airports in the U.S., XpresSpa is the spot you drop into for a quick massage during a long layover, or to freshen your manicure between flights. In other words, it’s a luxury — or in 2020 terms, a “non-essential.”

But even as the shops were shutting down and flight schedules were contracting, Satzman and the chairman of his board, Bruce Bernstein, decided to work toward a new — and newly critical — business model: COVID-19 testing. “As we were listening to the news, we’d hear about the need for testing, we’d hear about other countries doing this 30 days ago, we heard about South Korea curbing the spread in their communities with testing. We thought: is there a way we can reactivate our closed spas to at least temporarily turn them into COVID testing facilities and lend a hand to the efforts?” Satzman told TIME in mid-April. By then, he and Bernstein were making site visits to New York City’s JFK International Airport. In late May, they signed the contract to pilot their first testing program,

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