Data on exactly how COVID-19 is transmitted, and which places of public accommodation present the highest risk for transmitting COVID-19, are still emerging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a new study examining which places people testing positive and negative for COVID-19 most likely visited.
The study found that people who tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to have dined at a restaurant and to have a close contact who was positive for COVID-19 compared to people who tested negative. The authors note that situations in which adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing are difficult appear to create higher risk environments for COVID-19 transmission. Fitness centers providing ample social distancing and implementing (and enforcing) mask policies would not create such an environment. The study found no statistically significant association between COVID-19 test results and community activities, including:
- visiting a gym,
- shopping, and
- social gatherings, among others.
However, this study has been cited in media outlets to assert that fitness centers, alongside bars and restaurants, are among the highest risk locations for community spread of COVID-19. While data are still emerging, this particular study does not support the assertion that fitness centers are a high risk location for COVID-19 spread. In fact, this study found no statistically significant relationship between a COVID-19 test result and reported visits to a fitness center.
Study Methods & Findings
In a case control study, case patients (in this case those who were positive for COVID-19) and matched controls (people demographically similar to case patients but who tested negative for COVID-19) were identified and compared. Adults with a positive COVID-19 test result were randomly selected as case-patients. For each case-patient, two adults with a negative COVID-19 test result were randomly selected as control participants, and were matched by age, sex, and study location. The study started with 615 potential “case patients”—or people who had tested positive for COVID-19, and identified and contacted 1,212 people who could serve as matched controls 14-23 days following their test result.