Ontario is reviewing guidelines for gyms and fitness centers after spinning class in Hamilton sparked one of the worst community outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country, with nearly 70 cases now linked to the studio who said he was following all the rules.
Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s deputy medical officer of health, said on Wednesday the province was looking to determine if new rules were needed after the coronavirus outbreak at Hamilton’s Spinco studio last month resulted in 69 cases and potentially left 100 people exhibited.
“Even if they were following the guidelines, there was obviously significant transmission. So I think we need to revisit the guidelines, and that’s underway, ”said Dr Yaffe.
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“It’s not like I can say it right, just because your gym hasn’t had an outbreak, there’s no problem. It’s the type of setting and the way people interact that is the problem. “
The “super-widespread” event in Hamilton has raised concerns among infectious disease specialists, who say it highlights the danger in these environments.
Gyms and fitness studios in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region were closed on Saturday after the Ontario government imposed sweeping new restrictions for at least 28 days on the three sensitive areas that also included the closure of indoor meals in bars and restaurants.
In Toronto, 21 cases of COVID-19 were linked to adult recreational hockey in early October, Toronto medical officer of health Eileen de Villa said on Wednesday. At the end of September, 18 cases were linked to a fitness center, along with 76 additional contacts. Another 40 infections have been linked to a Calgary fitness center this summer.
But fitness facilities and classes remain open in other parts of Ontario – including the city of Hamilton, west of Toronto – with rules that include physical distance, limits of 50 people to interior and masks required only when moving around the gym or studio.
The debate over keeping gymnasiums open in other parts of the province is sparking a larger debate about how the government makes its decisions about the pandemic. Toronto Mayor John Tory called the process involving a table of public health measures “too opaque,” while Ottawa City Council passed a motion supporting the business community’s demand for Ontario explains the data behind the imposition of restrictions on the capital.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the province’s decision to close gyms in his town, which is part of Peel, was unexpected as there was no direct transmission to recreation facilities, including yoga and dance studios.
“I am concerned that there will be more negative impacts for society by closing these outlets that are positive for our residents,” he told The Globe and Mail.
Alex Kucharski, director of the Ontario Independent Fitness Studio Association, said he was disappointed the government was considering new restrictions “without any evidence to support the current restrictions and without any consultation with the fitness industry.”
“A few isolated incidents should not be representative of the entire industry. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work given the significant differences between how fitness studios operate in different categories, ”said Kucharski, who represents 70 small gyms across the province.
In a statement, Michelle August, founder of Spinco, said the company has tracked all public health measures and added more. She said none of the company’s other 17 studios had reported an outbreak, but the company would suspend operations in “affected areas of Ontario.”
“The recent positive cases in our Hamilton studio tell us that we need to keep working, adapting and changing our approach. While Spinco is certainly devastated that these cases have taken place in one of our locations, we see this as part of our ongoing battle against a virus that is constantly changing, seemingly every hour, ”he said. she declared.
Jacqueline Durlov, spokesperson for Hamilton’s Public Health Services, said the city agreed with Dr Yaffe’s plan to review guidelines for fitness activities. The health authority now suggests that people consider wearing masks in fitness classes whenever they can, not playing loud music or screaming during class, and making sure all steps are taken. public health are monitored. She said people shouldn’t go to class, or go out at all, if they feel sick in any way, even with mild symptoms.
Ashleigh Tuite, infectious disease epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, called the Hamilton outbreak a “generalized event” and said it could be a learning experience for province and fitness facilities that want to operate safely.
“I think this is a very good example of the need to update our guidelines and learn from these kinds of events,” she said.
“Right now we don’t have any rules about who wear masks when they’re in gyms, and there is no recognition of the importance of ventilation to prevent the spread of aerosols. .
Dr Tuite said it was possible to run gyms with the right precautions, such as wearing masks during physical activity and adequate ventilation. She said turning down the volume of the music can also help reduce transmission, so people in the facility don’t have to shout to be heard.
“It might not be as much fun, but if the alternative is to shut down the facility, I think it’s a good compromise.”
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