A cycling studio in Canada is the source of a major coronavirus outbreak that’s spread to at least 69 people—even though the studio was reportedly following all safety protocols. A single client at Spinco, a cycling studio in Hamilton, Ontario, has spread the coronavirus to at least 68 other people and exposed up to 100 people total to the virus, according to reports from CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). These alarmingly high numbers exist despite the fact that the studio was apparently following all safety requirements for their area at the time. In a statement to CNN, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, Elizabeth Richardson, M.D., M.Sc., confirmed the studio screened staff and attendees for symptoms, required masks before and after class, washed towels, and cleaned the fitness room within 30 minutes of a class ending.
Forty-six of the infections were primary cases—so, people who spent time at Spinco (44 patrons, two staff)—and the rest were secondary transmissions, meaning people who got the illness from primary cases. Dr. Richardson shared that about 75% of people affected were women, and the ages ranged from teens to people in their 50s. At this point, luckily, no one has been hospitalized in connection with this outbreak.
The area was not otherwise experiencing a significant outbreak of COVID-19, which makes this transmission especially concerning, health officials told CNN.
It raises questions, too, about the safety of gyms and other indoor spaces as we head into colder months. Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said months ago that gyms, bars, and restaurants were some of the riskiest places to go during this pandemic, as SELF reported previously. That’s because, in all three spaces, people are typically indoors and likely to take their masks off. That was true at Spinco, where masks were required only when arriving and leaving.
While the bikes at Spinco were six feet apart, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged earlier this month that the virus can travel farther than six feet via airborne transmission in some circumstances. “These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example, while singing or exercising,” the CDC says. You know—like in a cycling class.
Even worse, the CDC acknowledges that in these scenarios, infection is possible after the person with COVID-19 has left the room. “Under these circumstances, scientists believe that the amount of infectious smaller [droplets] and particles produced by the people with COVID-19 became concentrated enough to spread the virus to other people,” it says. “The people who were infected were in the same space during the same time or shortly after the person with COVID-19 had left.”
There are lots of questions about how (and even if) gyms can open safely amid the coronavirus pandemic. This latest outbreak makes clear what experts have already emphasized: Until we get a handle on this virus, there’s always going to be some risk involved in gathering indoors with people you don’t live with, especially without masks, and even if you try to maintain your distance.
“It’s a very large outbreak,” Dr. Richardson said, according to CBC. “We continue to look at what does it mean? What do we need to understand in terms of exercise classes…in terms of control measures.”
The best, safest options when it comes to exercise right now? Everything we’re about to say isn’t ideal if you thrive on in-person group classes, but it’s a reflection of where we are (and aren’t) when it comes to controlling this virus. So, for now, stick to at-home exercises and online workout classes. Maybe look into equipment like a stationary bike. Or figure out how to bundle up for the winter and get outside while still maintaining distance from others and still wearing a mask. Wearing a mask while exercising may feel uncomfortable, but the state of the pandemic means it’s a good idea whenever you’re working out in public. To help make it easier, here are 16 of the best masks to wear while running, along with how to safely exercise while wearing a mask.