Canadian fitness studio outbreak linked to 61 cases demonstrates need for masks, health officials say

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A spinning studio linked to at least 61 coronavirus cases appears to have complied with all public health regulations, according to officials in Hamilton, Ontario. Crucially, however, requiring masks for the duration of class was not among those regulations.

Boutique fitness studio Spinco removed about half its stationary bikes to allow room for social distancing and ramped up its sanitation measures, Elizabeth Richardson, the city’s medical officer, said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, gyms are a higher-risk place because of the fact that generally people are taking off their masks, they’re breathing at a higher rate,” she told reporters.

But although Hamilton requires masks to be worn in most public settings, the law includes an exemption for anyone “actively engaged in an athletic or fitness activity.” In keeping with that policy, Spinco allowed riders to remove their masks once clipped into their bikes, and told them to cover up again before dismounting at the end of class.

Hamilton has averaged less than a dozen new coronavirus infections a day in recent weeks, and Richardson called the Spinco outbreak “an unfortunate case.” As of Tuesday, 44 cases had been detected among the studio’s clients and staff, she said. An additional 17 instances of “secondary spread” were found among household members and other contacts.

In a recent Instagram post, Spinco’s owners said that they had been “hesitant” to reopen after getting the green light in July, and would not resume classes “until it is safe to do so.” Health officials have said that the studio is cooperating fully with the investigation.

Richardson said Tuesday that the city will consider closing gyms, but in the meantime, “what seems to be the case is that you need to wear that mask” even though government guidelines don’t strictly require it.

“It’s still a good idea to do it, in terms of keeping others safe,” she said.

The Washington Post

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