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Proper mask use is crucial in gyms, CDC says

Health officials say heavy breathing during intense physical activity facilitates the spread of the virus

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Health officials say mask-wearing is especially important when taking part in indoor group exercise in places like gyms. 

In new reports released Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that COVID-19 outbreaks over the summer have now been linked to exercise facilities in Chicago and Honolulu. 

In the Chicago facility, 60 percent of people who attended in-person fitness classes between August 24 and September 1 tested positive for the virus. The CDC said some virus-prevention measures were in place (including temperature checks and symptom screenings), but people were allowed to remove their masks during their workout. 

In the Honolulu facility, a fitness instructor who tested positive for COVID-19 on July 1 spread the virus to another 21 people. The instructor led a stationary cycling class for 10 people just a few hours before his symptoms began. None of the attendees wore a mask, and all of them later tested positive for COVID-19. 

CDC urges stricter precautions

The agency said “increased respiratory exertion” in enclosed spaces like gyms makes it easier for the virus to spread.

Officials recommend that gyms decrease class sizes, set up additional hand washing stations, and require physical distancing to prevent transmission. Mask-wearing should also be enforced regardless of whether people are spaced six feet apart, the agency said.

Other precautions that can help protect gym users include good ventilation and persistent reminders for employees and patrons to stay home if they are sick. 

“It’s very important for individuals who would like to attend a gym and work out to be cognizant of what the Covid symptoms are, and to be aware that if you are feeling something that looks and feels like a Covid-19 symptom, to stay home as a precaution,” said Richard A. Teran, a C.D.C. epidemiologist in Chicago who was one of the authors of the Chicago case study published on Wednesday.

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