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CDC issues new warnings about masking and vetilation for indoor fitness

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Back in October, we talked about the fact that boutique gyms were suffering from lockdown restrictions and that many were struggling to stay in business. Shutdown laws in New York were particularly difficult for small gym owners, who felt that they were being unfairly targeted when larger chain facilities were allowed to stay open. Outbreaks at group fitness classes early in the pandemic led scientists to warn against cardio classes in particular. There have been cases traced to gyms in in Toronto, Chicago and Honolulu. Those are just the cases we know about. Contact tracing heavily depends on states and is woefully inadequate in the US. Now the CDC is recommending that indoor facilities require mask-wearing and ensure proper ventilation. They state that social distancing in not enough indoors.

In September, a Chicago resident called their gym with alarming news: They’d recently come to an indoor workout class despite feeling sick and then later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The gym quickly shut its doors, but it was too late. Fifty-five of the 81 people who attended high-intensity classes at the facility between Aug. 24 and Sept. 1 would eventually test positive. A similar case tied to three gyms in Honolulu over the summer resulted in 22 total infections.

Citing both cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday urged gym users to wear masks during intense workouts — even when socially distanced — and asked gyms to improve ventilation and push for outdoor activities when possible.

The new research is a reminder that working out indoors with other people carries a significant risk of infection, public health experts said.

“If you can wait until the spring and work out outside, it will be a lot safer,” Joshua Epstein, an epidemiology professor at NYU’s School of Global Public Health, told The Washington Post. “We are not out of the woods by any means. It’s not the time to relax.”

[From The Washington Post]

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The article goes on to state that the gyms with outbreaks had social distancing and limited capacity, however people just didn’t wear masks for the most part. At the gym in Chicago three different people still worked out in high intensity group classes despite having positive covid tests! 22 other people were symptomatic and still worked out. So many people there didn’t wear masks, because of course they didn’t. There were cases in other cities where instructors taught classes and found out later that they had covid. Of course the people attending the classes weren’t wearing masks.

While I feel bad for small gym owners, there is no way in hell I’m going back to a gym this year. I sometimes check the Instagram for the boutique gym I used to go to for spinning and HIIT classes. Even in the photos they post to Instagram, no one is wearing a mask! Sometimes people will have them down around their chins. The rooms where they work out are very small and while people are socially distanced, that’s not good enough indoors! I don’t think I’ll work out with them again even outdoors, because if people aren’t wearing masks indoors they’re definitely wearing them outdoors. It makes me sad that the whole industry has been disrupted and I really miss group fitness classes. I take them on Zoom now from a facility that has gone fully virtual. I understand that my old gym needs to keep their business going, but if masks aren’t required I’m not going to risk my life. I won’t be going to a gym until I’m vaccinated at the very least. Even then I’m not so sure.

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Photos credit: Matthew Sichkaruk and Bruce Mars on Unsplash. Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

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