Now, despite appearing to have complied with public health regulations, at least 61 people linked to the study have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“They had gone to great lengths to remove the potential for spread,” Richardson told reporters. “Unfortunately, gyms are a high-risk place due to the fact that people generally take off their masks, breathe at a faster rate.”
Although Hamilton requires masks to be worn in most public settings, the law includes an exemption for anyone “actively engaged in an athletic or fitness activity.”
In a recent Instagram post, SPINCO owners said they were “reluctant” to reopen after getting the green light in July and that they won’t resume classes “until it’s safe to do so.” Health officials said the study is temporarily closed and is fully cooperating with the investigation.
“We have taken all public health measures offered, even some additions, and the pandemic has hit us again!” the owners wrote. SPINCO has more than a dozen locations across Canada.
As of Tuesday, 44 cases related to specific classes have been detected, Richardson said. Another 17 cases of “secondary cases” were found among other contacts.
The city will review gymnastics protocols, Richardson added on Tuesday, but in the meantime “what appears to be the case is that you have to wear that mask” even if government guidelines don’t strictly require it.
“It’s still a good idea to do this, in terms of protecting others,” he said.
People should also avoid “classes where you have that kind of screaming or coaching about music”.
He refused to use the term “superspreader” to describe the event, but said it was a “very large outbreak”.
“It is worrying that it extends beyond the initial cases that were class-related but obviously got into their family contacts and other contacts,” she said. “Let’s keep looking at what it means, what do we need to understand about gym classes?”
Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s chief health officer, told reporters Wednesday that the province is reviewing its recommendations for spin studios and other gyms in response to the outbreak.
“Even if they followed the guidelines, there was obviously significant transmission,” Yaffe said, “so I think we need to review the guidelines and this is ongoing.”
The outbreak offers further evidence of the dangers of people gathering indoors without masks, as health experts warn that cases could rise in the coming months as winter weather arrives and outdoor gatherings and exercise classes they will be more difficult to maintain.
In August, South Korea confirmed dozens of cases related to a single Starbucks in the city of Paju where many customers wore no masks. The shop employees, who wore masks, were not infected. The outbreak prompted Starbucks to limit its indoor seating in the country and encourage masks among customers.
In other cases, the use of the mask has been credited for preventing potential outbreaks. In May, after the reopening of a hair salon in Missouri that required masks, two stylists – who had worked with more than 100 clients – tested positive for the virus. But the masks were needed within the salon, and of the several dozen customers who opted for the test after their potential exposure, none tested positive.
Amanda Coletta in Toronto contributed to this report.
This report has been updated.