MDH coronavirus data shows few parallels between gyms and restaurants

Working out, gyms, masks
Photo credit (Getty Images / cerro_photography)

State officials continue to conduct official observations and enforcement of executive orders at bars and restaurants. While gyms and fitness centers have been open since about mid-June, officials at this point are not seeing parallels between the industries.

Most gyms have revamped their layout, programming and entrances and exits to make it as smooth a reopening as possible.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, as of the last outbreak data available, there were two gyms in August associated with 34 cases. That’s compared to more than 1,200 cases linked to identified bars and restaurants, with MDH calling out some “bad apples” that have led to clusters.

“Everyone’s become much more aware of spacial awareness, social responsibility, and the community of like-minded people and how they view the space has changed,” Heather Hannig, the VP of Health and Wellness at the YWCA Minneapolis, said.

MDH  officials said it comes down as always to mask wearing, sanitation and social distancing, but caution that there are still greater risks indoors, particularly with heavy breathing. 

“Certainly we recognize that that is an environment for transmission and hence the guidelines we put forth, but when we compare that to the volume that we have seen associated with bars and restaurants, we do not see at the same level that we’ve seen,” MDH Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said.

There is scant research about the spread of the virus in fitness centers, and what does exist is produced by companies in the industry. Few states collect data for spread at gyms specifically.

A study published by the CDC from South Korea was conducted concerning a dance class in February, before social distancing on a mass scale in the country.

Hannig with the YWCA says gyms are the cleanest they’ve ever been. Their system allows members to sign up for two-hour blocks throughout the day. During the half hour between those blocks, employees clean the facility for the next block.

The YWCA started with virtual training to stay afloat. Once reopening came closer, they took away cardio machines. The floor is divided up with equipment to further force social distancing.

Hannig said, just like restaurants, it’s about building consumer confidence for now and in the future.

“No one’s upset that you’re not coming in now, but boy, when we do have the chance, or there is a vaccine or when you do feel comfortable getting out of the house, we do want you to think about us,” she said.

Gyms remain open to 25 percent capacity or up to 250 people indoors or out. People are required to wear masks except when doing strenuous exercise.