Hamilton cycle studio linked to 69 COVID cases as officials work to limit gatherings

MONTREAL — Health officials in several provinces were scrambling to limit gatherings and outbreaks on Wednesday, including one at a cycling studio in Hamilton that has now been linked to 69 cases of COVID-19.

A spokeswoman for the Hamilton public health unit said there are currently 46 primary and 23 secondary cases linked to an outbreak at SPINCO that began Oct. 5.

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Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health says that the province may need to consider new guidelines for these types of facilities since it appears the cycling studio followed the rules in place.

"Even though they followed guidelines there was obviously significant transmission so I think we do need to review the guidelines and that's in process," Dr. Barbara Yaffe said during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Elsewhere in the province, public health officials in an Indigenous community in southwestern Ontario said they were in crisis mode after a spike in COVID-19 cases associated with private gatherings.

A statement from the band council of the Six Nations of the Grand River said there were now 14 active and 33 probable cases in the community, up from five confirmed and two probable reported on its website last Friday.

There were over 188,000 cases of COVID-19 across Canada as of midday Wednesday, with the vast majority of them originating in Ontario and Quebec.

But Manitoba on Wednesday set another daily high for the province for the second day in a row, adding 146 new COVID-19 cases to its total.

New Brunswick, meanwhile, reported eight new cases, including two linked to an outbreak at a special-care home in Moncton.

In Quebec, police and regional health officials were investigating after hundreds of people gathered in a synagogue north of Montreal over the weekend in an event that spilled into the streets and had to be broken up by police.

The regional health authority that covers the area said in a statement that it was working with local leaders to limit the impacts of the gathering and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Alain Picard, the spokesman for an organization representing Hasidic Jews in Quebec, said the gathering took place around a synagogue belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Tosh community in Boisbriand. Close to 1,000 people gathered in the building and the surrounding streets to celebrate the end of Jewish holidays.

Picard, who was called to help mediate a meeting between the group and health officials ahead of the event, said that while most members of the community were wearing masks and have been following health guidelines up until this point, they decided to move ahead with the large gathering.

The community was placed under a 14-day quarantine after cases spiked there in March, leading some in the community to believe they are immune or that the group has already done its part in fighting the virus, he said in a phone interview.

"Like in the rest of Quebec and Canada, some are not in agreement with the rules," he said.

It is not yet clear whether the event has been associated with any COVID-19 transmission.

Meanwhile, several Ontario cities appeared to be grappling with whether to cancel Halloween festivities in the province's hardest-hit areas.

Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said she was recommending people stick to their households and avoid going door to door.

"We are recommending that people stick to their households," Etches said Wednesday.

"That's the common message we need people to pick up and carry out. It doesn't seem consistent to say then that people should be moving around their neighbourhoods in groups," Etches said, adding that families can still dress up and hold candy hunts on their own properties.

A group of mayors in the Toronto and Hamilton areas also put out a statement on Tuesday calling on the provincial government to issue clear guidelines on Halloween by the end of the week.

Canada's chief public health officer said Tuesday trick-or-treating can be safe in most areas as long as people take precautions such as wearing masks, using hand-sanitizer and ensuring treats are prepackaged, but Dr. Theresa Tam added Canadians should observe the instructions from local health authorities, who have the best information about what's going on in their communities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020

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