17 COVID-positive cases linked to 2 Oahu gyms

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — State health officials announced on July 10 that it is monitoring a cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to two Oahu gyms.

The question of which gyms those cases were linked back to, however, were unanswered.

The Department of Health said the person was symptomatic and went to a poorly ventilated gym and infected the entire class. A person from that class went to another gym and spread the virus to others.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said the symptomatic person was also part of a previous cluster and is urging residents to not let their guards down when out in public. She said there are several clusters across Oahu involving people who did not social distance or wear a mask.

“Yeah it’s definitely you’re example of a super-spreading event,” Dr. Park said. “As one of my staff put it with the starting gym we had a 10 out of 10 hit, a 100% infection rate in that class and based on what my staff saw in that gym, it’s no wonder.”

Dr. Park said the gym had poor ventilation and had a fan blowing above. “So in a very close space, very limited ventilation, people are in close juxtaposition with fans blowing so basically what my staff saw was well it’s no wonder we saw a 100% infection rate in that kind of situation.”

“What we’ve found is, unfortunately, our community has interpreted re-opening with it’s okay to gather,” she said. “The virus knows no boundaries and they were infected in the gym, and they’re going and meeting up with friends and they’re going to some other gathering and then infecting that group so we’re seeing extensions.”

[RELATED: 28 new cases of COVID-19 bring state total to 1,158]

Health officials are encouraging people to exercise, but want to add that safety precautions should still be exercised and if you’re not feeling well, stay home.

“We encourage everyone to exercise regularly, and going to the gym is a good way to maintain both physical and mental health.  However, it is critically important that safe practices are followed and that the gym is well-ventilated. Individuals at a gym are often breathing hard while exercising,” said State Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson.

Dr. Park explained in most cases the symptomatic person isn’t ‘flagrantly’ ill to the point where they feel the need to stay in bed. “It’s more of ‘I’m not feeling so good, I have a scratchiness in my throat, or they feel the early phase of ‘I’m fighting something off and I hope it goes away,’ so what we’re seeing in this Covid world is that as soon as you feel something coming on, you need to stop what you’re doing and go home.”

Dr. Park said that gyms should consider taping off every other equipment machine so people can physically distance from one another. She recommends people stay 12-feet apart or more while working out.

“People should also take a look at the gym and see if there isn’t great ventilation. Maybe you have to rethink your operation and say ‘It’s not safe right now,” Dr. Park said. “And maybe that gym needs to offer at-home exercises, or do something creative, because the alternative is you have what’s happening. We now have a second gym because one person was in a gym class at the first gym–had 100 percent attack rate there, and one of the persons from that class went to another gym and started a cluster there.”

The DOH says that the virus is transmitted from person-to-person through aerosols and droplets associated with breathing, coughing, and sneezing.

Dr. Park recommends people get exercise outdoors.

“I can understand when you’re working out. It’s physically not possible to wear a mask which is why it’s so important to have physical distance and good ventilation,” Dr. Park said.

She said it’s a good idea for people to wear a mask while walking to another machine or equipment.

“Be contingent of what your hands touch and don’t touch your face.”

“Perhaps most important is to stay home if you are feeling ill.  Don’t try to sweat it out,” said Dr. Anderson.

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