A gym in Virginia was spared from a massive coronavirus superspreader event thanks to extra ventilation measures that were put in place.
The 460 Fitness gym in Blacksburg, VA, reopened for business in June after being shut down since March during the coronavirus lockdown. The gym’s owner and head coach, Velvet Minnick, reached out to gym member Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, to make sure added ventilation measures were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus within the facility. Marr, who specializes in airborne transmission of viruses, air quality, and nanotechnology, came up with a plan to improve air quality and sanitation within the gym so that all members could exercise safely.
“I knew the virus was transmitted mainly through the air, so I thought it was really important to have good ventilation, so everyone wasn’t able to breathe it,” Marr explained to CNN.
With Marr’s advice, Minnick implemented individual athlete stations near the bay doors that gave each one 10 feet of space and its own personal equipment inside. This 10 feet of space, which is much more than the six feet recommended by the CDC, provides more fresh air than what is required by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Each station is marked on the floor with orange tape. The gym also banned freely roaming about as well as sharing equipment during partner workouts. In addition, a carbon dioxide detector is being utilized to track the virus within the facility.
“Carbon dioxide is exhaled breath and is a good indicator of how much viruses might be building up in the air,” Marr said.
The ventilation measures were put to the test when it was discovered that one of the gym coaches was ill. Minnick had the coach quarantine until the results of his coronavirus test came back. Once the test returned positive, Minnick contacted all 50 of the gym’s other athletes and checked-in with them for two weeks. Several of them got tested, and all came back negative.
“I contacted all of my members on a Monday,” Minnick said. “And then the … health department contact tracers. They did not even notify me of the direct exposure until Wednesday. With something like this, it’s so important to know right away.”
The one coach who did test positive was found to have contracted the virus from a different facility.