COVID outbreaks tied to maskless gym workouts, CDC reports say

Two COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to maskless exercise classes at gyms in Chicago and Honolulu, according to new reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Chicago report, 60% of the 81 people who attended in-person fitness classes at one facility between August 24 and September 1 tested positive for coronavirus. Another 7% were considered probable cases: They reported symptoms consistent with the disease but did not test positive.

While some mitigation measures were in place at the facility — including temperature checks and six-foot distancing — removal of masks was permitted during exercise, according to the report.

In Honolulu, 21 cases were linked to a fitness instructor who tested positive for Covid-19 on July 1. A few hours before the onset of symptoms, the  instructor led a stationary cycling class for 10 people, none of whom wore a mask. All participants later tested positive for COVID-19, including a second fitness instructor linked to additional cases.

About two days before experiencing symptoms, the same instructor led a yoga class for 27 people while wearing a mask. There were no reported cases among these participants.

According to the first report, “the increased respiratory exertion that occurs in the enclosed spaces of indoor exercise facilities facilitates transmission” of the virus.

Gyms should decrease class sizes and require physical distancing, and even when spaced 6 feet apart, the CDC recommends the use of a mask to reduce coronavirus transmission.

The agency also says that facilities should improve ventilation and encourage patrons and staff to follow proper quarantine and isolation protocol after potential exposure or the onset of symptoms.

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