Spinco, a spin studio in Hamilton, a city in Ontario, is now responsible for at least 69 cases of COVID-19. CBC reports that it is "the city's largest current outbreak and one of the worst fitness studio outbreaks in the country."
Out of the 69 cases, 46 are "primary" cases, meaning they were directly involved in the spin class. There were 44 patrons and two staff members who contracted the virus. Twenty-three of the cases are "secondary" or "household spread" cases, including family, friends, and other contacts of those who attended the class.
Hamilton Public Health Services stopped short of calling it a super-spreader event, but mostly because they don't really use that language. Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city's medical officer of health, said that instead, they're referring to it as a "'very large outbreak' with a lot of transmission."
"It is concerning in that it has extended, of course, beyond the initial cases that were related to the classes [and] gone into their household contacts and other contacts," she said.
Contact tracing efforts have confirmed exposure dates of September 28 to October 4, but those could change as they continue to get more information. Part of the problem here is that the spin studio was technically following the health guidelines.
Officials have said Spinco "was following proper pandemic protocol," though it's unclear if all class participants were following the rules. However, the rules on Spinco's website state that while bikes are placed six feet apart, "masks must be worn indoors by everyone and cannot be removed until all riders are clipped into their bikes. Face coverings must be put back on before riders get off the bikes."
But in a spin studio, an indoor location where lots of people are huffing and puffing, just six feet between bikes isn't necessarily enough to prevent the spread of the virus, especially not when dozens of people aren't wearing masks.
Many learned this lesson the hard way. You want to believe that professional establishments know what they're doing, but there are way too many variables with COVID-19 and the way it spreads to know for sure that your safety measures are enough.
Luckily, Dr. Richardson said that no one connected to the outbreak has been hospitalized so far. She said that about three-quarters of those who've been infected are female and one-quarter are male, and ages range from late teens to late 50s.
Dr. Martha Fulford, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster Children's Hospital and Hamilton Health Services, wasn't so hesitant to use the term "super-spreader" when it came to this outbreak.
"From everything I'm seeing and hearing about it, one of these so-called super-spreader events where you probably have one person who, for whatever inexplicable reason, is such an effective transmitter," she said.
Still, she doesn't necessarily believe that closing all gyms and going back into total lockdown is the right thing to do. "Lockdowns do not make the virus go away. It simply slows things down while you try to figure out what you're doing," she said. There still needs to be a comprehensive plan for how to deal with the virus, and right now, it's clear that we're flailing.