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COVID-19 outbreak at cycling studio leads to 69 cases and counting

"We are very concerned with the number of positive cases, the size of this outbreak and the impact that it has had on our community," local officials said.
Midsection Of Man Using Exercise Bike
An outbreak at a cycling studio in Canada raises questions about gyms and COVID-19 spread.Javier S?nchez Mingorance / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

At least 69 people have been infected with the coronavirus in a city in Ontario, Canada, after a series of classes at a cycling studio led to an outbreak, even though there were many safety protocols in place.

Public Health Services in Hamilton declared the outbreak on Oct. 5, officials said in a statement to TODAY. The virus had spread among staff and patrons at Spinco for several days beforehand, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4. As of Wednesday, there were 46 confirmed cases among people who were directly infected at Spinco and 23 secondary confirmed cases. Public Health Services identified at least 100 close contacts associated with these cases. No one affected by the outbreak so far has required hospitalization.

"We are very concerned with the number of positive cases, the size of this outbreak and the impact that it has had on our community," Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said in the statement.

Safety protocols in place during the classes that let to outbreaks included: keeping bikes more than 6 feet apart, less than 50% capacity in the studio and cleaning rooms within 30 minutes of a class ending. Masks, however, were only required up until participants were clipped into their bikes and immediately after the workouts ended.

In Hamilton's current reopening stage, face coverings are only required in public when individuals are unable to maintain physical distance of at least 2 meters, per local reopening guidance. This applies to both indoor and outdoor settings.

Richardson said in a media briefing Tuesday that she was hesitant to call Spinco's classes "super spreaders," but she did say it was "a very large outbreak. ... We continue to look at what does it mean, what do we need to understand about exercise classes."

Spinco said in a statement shared on Instagram that it's been closed since Oct. 5 and would remain so until "it's safe to reopen." Spinco staff did not immediately respond to TODAY's request for comment about when that might be or if it plans to change its safety protocols.

Hamilton, Ontario, has not been a hot spot, with only about 1,400 total cases among its 579,000 residents since the pandemic began. Public Health Services is "currently working with other levels of government" to assess whether to change regulations for indoor workout spaces, but there is "nothing concrete at this time," an official told TODAY via email.

"I think there is still some concern with exercising in enclosed spaces, even with the 2 m distance as studies show that more droplets are expelled during vigorous exercise and during yelling or loud coaching, both of which are common to this group type of activity," Richardson said.

This story has been updated to include a follow-up email statement from Hamilton's Public Health Services.