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SPINCO member says gym went ‘way beyond’ keeping her safe amid pandemic reopening

Global News

Julia Smith said she was devastated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she wasn’t able to participate in an exercise she truly enjoys, spinning.

“It doesn’t just help with your cardio, it helps with your mental health,” Smith said.

“And depending on the instructor and how they address the class and what they say, it really can change your day.”

However, not getting on an indoor bike wasn’t the only adversity the 53-year-old would deal with during the pandemic, contracting the virus was also a setback.

Read more: Outbreak tied to COVID-19 cases at SPINCO ‘unfortunate’: Hamilton’s medical officer of health

“I woke up with an aching back and thought, oh, maybe I just had overdone it,” Smith says when recalling her first symptoms during a sleepless night on Oct 2.

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“When I actually properly woke up at a decent hour, my chest is super heavy. So I just thought, oh, I’m just sick. Then I slept the entire day and night.”

Smith says eventually took the advice of a friend who was a nurse practitioner and got tested a day later at the Hamilton Health Sciences location on Main Street West.

“Yeah, it was a bit of a shock,” Smith said after discovering her positive test days later online.

As of Thursday, downtown Hamilton studio SPINCO had 72 cases tied to a coronavirus outbreak. Smith was one of the 47 people public health says likely contracted COVID-19 from a single spin class.

Hamilton’s medical officer of health says the outbreak is an “unfortunate case,” leaving the city and Ontario wondering whether or not more strict guidelines are needed after an investigation revealed the outlet was following provincial guidelines.

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“The province is reflecting on it at their public health measures table to think about what more to do about guidelines,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said during a virtual town hall on Thursday night.

Earlier in the day health minister Christine Elliot confirmed the province is looking at “many options” to curb the spread of the virus in workout settings.

“I can tell you that this is something that is being monitored constantly by the health measures table, by the health command table, and within’ the ministry as well,” Elliot said during a briefing at Queen s Park.

Read more: Coronavirus: COVID-19 outbreaks declared at Hamilton restaurant, Burlington processing plant

Smith concurs with the assessment from public health that SPINCO did “everything possible” in regards to social distancing and limiting touchpoints.

“My heart just breaks for SPINCO because they did everything and beyond what they could have done,” Smith said.

The rider, who’s been a member with the spin studio since late 2019, says she went back to the gym amid the pandemic in late summer and recalls a military-style format.

“Your temperature was taken and questions were asked when you came in,” said Smith.

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Upon the gym’s reopening, schedules were changed, fewer classes were offered and the time between the classes was much greater, according to SPINCO’s website.

Public health’s investigation confirmed the studio had been operating at 50 per cent capacity with a two-metre radius around each bike upon its reopening.

Read more: Ontario reports 783 new coronavirus cases, 5 more deaths

“And I personally loved that because I felt that the environment before to be quite claustrophobic,” Smith said.

“It wasn’t until the instructor came in, was on the bike, doors closed that you were instructed that you could remove your mask.”

Dr. Richardson says under city bylaws patrons of the local gyms can take their masks off when they begin their workouts. However, she says that doesn’t mean one cannot be worn during physical activity.

“We’re very much encouraging that a mask be worn by people who are in those classes, throughout the class if they at all can,” Richardson said.

SPINCO remains closed and is awaiting further instruction from the city before reopening, according to a statement on its Instagram account.

Read more: McMaster reports sixth COVID-19 case, third for October

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The operators say they are “committed” to opening their doors again at some point.

Smith says through her ordeal she will return and says since the closing couldn’t have been treated better by the gym who check on her regularly.

“They send personal emails, offer to do groceries, help with your family situation,” Smith said.

“They have gone way beyond, way beyond.”