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The surprising reason no one got COVID-19 from this gym trainer (it had nothing to do with masks)

Published Nov 16th, 2020 11:04AM EST
Image: Fabian/Adobe

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  • Indoor gatherings are responsible for a large percentage of coronavirus transmissions due to poor air circulation.
  • A member at a Virginia gym recently tested positive for the coronavirus and potentially exposed 50 other members to the virus.
  • The gym, however, employed a specially designed ventilation system that prevented anyone else from coming down with the coronavirus.

For months now, health experts have warned that indoor gatherings are disproportionately responsible for coronavirus infections. Aside from the fact that people tend to congregate more closely together when indoors, indoor gatherings are particularly risky due to issues with poor ventilation and air circulation.

“We need to pay a little bit more attention now to the recirculation of air indoors,” Dr. Fauci said back in August, “which tells you that mask-wearing indoors when you’re in a situation like that is something that is as important as wearing masks when you’re outside dealing with individuals who you don’t know where they came from or who they are.”

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In light of the above, a fascinating story out of Virginia highlights the extent to which proper ventilation can help the coronavirus from spreading. Originally brought to light via Insider, the 460 Fitness gym in Virginia recently had something of a coronavirus scare when one of its members tested positive for COVID-19.

But as it turns out, no one else in the gym — which included about 50 exposed members — contracted the virus due to a ventilation system that maximized circulation. What makes the story so unique is that the ventilation system in question was specifically designed with the threat of the coronavirus in mind. What’s more, it was designed by Dr. Linsey Marr, a Harvard-educated gym member who happens to be an expert on how viruses travel through the atmosphere.

Marr, who describes herself on Twitter as an “intellectual omnivore and avid recreational athlete,” worked with gym owner Velvet Minnick throughout the summer to ensure the high-intensity, CrossFit-style workouts there were as safe as possible for athletes and trainers.

She told Insider that good airflow, proper planning, and plenty of social distance make all the difference in helping to ensure enthusiasm is the only thing that’s contagious at the gym.

Marr calculated optimal ventilation for the gym, based on the layout and various wind scenarios

Speaking to the ingenuity and efficacy of Marr’s ventilation system, the members at 460 Fitness aren’t required to wear masks. And while this doesn’t seem wise given the current state of the coronavirus pandemic, the ventilation system appears to have worked exactly as designed. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the layout of the gym itself enabled members to workout at a distance of 10 feet apart, which is more than the typical guideline of 6 feet. The 10-foot distance in this particular case is key because a heavy Crossfit-style workout naturally causes people to breathe heavier and, in turn, project coronavirus particles a greater distance.

And as evidenced by Marr’s tweet below, many workouts were conducted with large open doors.

It’s an interesting story, to be sure, but it’s important to remember that most houses and apartments aren’t built to maximize airflow. And with colder weather forcing people across the country to spend more time indoors, adhering to safety guidelines like social distancing and even mask-wearing is as important as ever.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.