It is believed to be one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in any fitness center in Canada. Over 50 cases, all identified within a week, all linked to a small niche spinning studio in downtown Hamilton.
The city’s worst active outbreak at SpinCo only increased over the long weekend, doubling its total from 24 cases on Friday to 51 cases on Monday.
Thirty-seven runners and two staff members tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the James Street North gymnasium. Eleven other secondary cases of “home spread” – exposures to contacts outside the studio, such as family and friends of clients – are also linked to the outbreak.
And it could get even worse.
Public health officials have warned that “potentially 100” SpinCo runners and secondary contacts may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
The outbreak was declared Monday after three cases were detected among members of the studio’s community. The number of cases has since increased 15 times.
This is what infectious disease experts consider to be a “super-prevalent” event – a chain reaction of infections triggered by an isolated case that excretes a higher than normal number of pathogens during their period of illness. incubation.
The exhibition at SpinCo kicked off September 28 and “spread to specific classes” until October 5.
Co-owners Naz Zarezadegan and Ira Price told The Spectator on Monday that the studio was recently informed by public health that “patient zero was showing no symptoms.”
The owners – who opened the gymnasium in January as one of seven SpinCo studios in Ontario – have defended its public health safety guidelines and pledged to reopen when allowed in a statement posted on Saturday on his Instagram page.
“(W) e are at a point where either we let the pandemic own us or we take it back,” the statement read. “We are determined to change the script!”
Spin classes at the gym run 50 percent – 21 runners instead of 43 – with a six-foot radius around each bike. The studio has also implemented screening and sanitation measures.
But the risk of viral spread in a collective environment is not linear, said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto.
It’s more like a Russian roulette game.
“We think it’s a bad idea to play Russian Roulette because most of the time when you put the gun to your head and pull the trigger nothing happens,” Furness said. “But there is a risk that something really horrible could happen, as it seemed to be happening here. “
Furness stressed that the blame should not be placed on studio owners. It should be attributed to the province, he said, for giving some businesses the ability to open “inherently dangerous” places like gyms, restaurants and bars.
“It can happen in any gym,” Furness said. “It’s not about whether the gymnasium was well run; it’s about how COVID spreads. If you let people get together, without masks, sharing air, in the same space for an extended period… it was going to happen anyway. ”
It is particularly counterintuitive, Furness added, for the province to shut down restaurants and indoor gyms and limit gatherings in certain COVID-19 hot spots – like Toronto, Peel and Ottawa – while allowing 31 other health regions. public to follow different rules.
“Hamilton or any public health region shouldn’t have different rules because that limits the prevention of the spread,” he said.
The growing epidemic at SpinCo comes amid a growing spate of cases in Hamilton.
Public health reported 31 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday – the most in a single day since the evacuation of the Rosslyn retirement residence on May 16.
This is the first time since the pandemic hit Hamilton that public health has reported more than 10 cases for eight consecutive days.
The 155 new cases detected last week marked a record for the city. The 183 active cases reported on Monday are four times the number of the 33 reported on September 2.
Nearly 30% of Hamilton’s total number of cases – 1,395 – has occurred since the end of August.