Two new case studies conducted by the CDC have found that indoor group fitness classes in Honolulu and Chicago led directly to COVID outbreaks that infected dozens of people, and the study authors caution that masks should be kept on at all. time when gyms reopen, or people should continue to opt for outdoor fitness.
Over the past year, business owners, and gym owners in particular, have been publicly arguing with elected officials and / or openly disobeying pandemic health regulations by keeping gyms open. Keeping up with physical and mental health is important, they have argued, and have demanded to see scientific evidence that gyms are dangerous vectors for the spread of the coronavirus.
As the New York Times reports, the Centers for Disease Control has published two case studies, one in Hawaii and one in Chicago, that provide compelling links between group fitness classes in particular and the easy spread of COVID-19 when masks are used. not be used. Studies confirm what the CDC had already reported at the beginning of the pandemic about an outbreak in a group gym class in South Korea.
In the Chicago study, looking at an outbreak that infected 55 of 81 people who attended group fitness classes at a gym over a week-long period last August, researchers found that class attendees reported as much inconsistent use of masks such as attending classes after experiencing COVID. symptom. Three attendees surveyed actually attended fitness classes on the same day or one day after receiving a positive COVID test result, because they were feeling no symptoms and are idiots.
These infections occurred at a time when gym classes in Chicago were limited to between 10 and 16 people, keeping a distance of six feet between them. However, gyms required masks to enter the door and temperature controls, but allowed people to remove the masks while exercising.
The Honolulu outbreak appears to be related to a particular fitness instructor, and the case study examines the rate of contagion between a period of two days and several hours before the onset of symptoms. This 37-year-old male instructor, referred to instructor A, turned out to be responsible for infecting 21 other people, including a second fitness instructor. Instructor A taught a yoga class for 28 people a little over two days before feeling ill, and no one in the class tested positive for COVID. However, this instructor taught a spin class the next day for 10 people, and another spin class the next day for 10 people, six of whom were the same as the previous 10. The 10 attendees of the spin class the third day – the day the instructor felt fatigue and other symptoms, about four hours after class, he ended up testing positive for COVID and everyone had been in class without wearing masks.
The researchers suggest that, in addition to inadequate ventilation and the lack of a mask policy, the instructor shouting commands while highly infectious could also have contributed to infecting 10 out of 10 people in a class.
At the time of the outbreak, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that 17 cases had been linked to two gyms, and state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park released a statement saying that all indoor gyms “can be breeding grounds for all types of infections.” . And he said: “It is imperative that all gyms follow the safe practices required by state and county governments. These include proper physical distancing in training areas and in group classes, wearing masks at all times, disinfection constant and complete equipment and all surfaces. ” This suggests that these gyms had not complied with state mandates on wearing masks.
Gyms are likely to operate relatively safely, with mask protocols, but for those who crave group exercise, these studies suggest there are reasons to wait or just do it outdoors. A limited study of gym-goers in Norway last spring suggested that no COVID infection was linked to gyms practicing proper distancing, without masks, yet there was very little virus in Norway at the time.
“Nothing is 100 percent safe,” says Alex Larcom of the International Association of Health Rackets and Sports Clubs, speaking to the Times. “There is never zero risk. But [health] clubs are not the main driver of the spread of COVID. ”
Larcom cites the irresponsibility of gym class goers in Chicago who were symptomatic or positive for COVID, and says, “Across society, we trust people who are ill or think they are ill to walk away from society.”
Obviously the moral of the story here is that humans are dumb and will continue to be dumb, especially but not just in America, so until you’re vaccinated, watch out for no-mask spin classes and the person coughing two Stairmasters.
Photo: Humphrey Muleba