Ontario is considering changing COVID-19 safety protocols for gyms in light of an outbreak linked to a Hamilton cycling studio, the province's associate medical officer of health said Wednesday.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that the outbreak at SPINCO — now linked to 69 cases — was concerning because the studio adhered to protocols laid out by the province for fitness centres, such as ensuring a two-metre distance between clients.
"Even though they followed guidelines there was obviously significant transmission so I think we do need to review the guidelines, and that's in process," she said.
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's medical officer of health, said she agreed with Yaffe that the SPINCO outbreak and other similar clusters linked to fitness centres made a review of current guidelines necessary.
"We definitely support a review of that guidance," said Richardson. "Are there further measures that need to be taken? Are there further limitations that need to be put in place for these gyms to operate safely?"
Currently, the total number of patrons permitted in a fitness centre is limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from each other, and cannot exceed 50 people indoors or 100 people outdoors. Masks are required to enter a gym, but not when a person is exercising.
Other recent cases linked to gyms include 18 that were connected to a fitness centre in Toronto in late September, the city said on Wednesday. It also said 21 cases were linked to adult recreational hockey in early October.
In Hamilton, the city's public health unit reported 46 confirmed primary cases associated with SPINCO on Wednesday. That was an increase of two from the previous day's report.
A spokeswoman for the public health unit said there are also 23 confirmed secondary cases for a total of 69 cases linked to the outbreak.
"We're still following up, we're still having cases reported," Richardson said of the outbreak.
"We would hope that there aren't any further but given where we're at in terms of the outbreak investigation stage we will likely have some more cases."
Hamilton had 193 active COVID-19 cases in total as of Wednesday afternoon.
The SPINCO outbreak was declared by the public health unit on Oct. 5. The secondary cases are related to exposure to SPINCO members who have tested positive with COVID-19.
The gym said in an online statement that it has been following up with affected members.
"We have been following all the procedures set in place by public health. We have been in constant contact with our riders and we will continue to do so, if not daily, then every few days, with updates," it wrote on its Instagram account.
Richardson said that she does not think that Hamilton will need stricter restrictions like those imposed in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa late last week. Gyms in those three regions were ordered to close as part of the province's measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"I don't think we're there yet in terms of the numbers that we're at," said Richardson, adding that Hamilton was averaging 27 new cases per day over the past week.
"Overall it's more about people not following public health measures and so we really need everybody to do that whenever they can."
She did note that her staff of approximately 235 assigned to the region's COVID-19 response are "taxed across the board" by the rising case totals because of Ontario's second wave.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press