A popular exercise spot among Gonzaga students, The Union Studios, has become the latest location to fall victim to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The incident occurred during the first week of October when someone attended a spin class while asymptomatic, who later tested positive for COVID-19. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy laws, this person’s identity and role must remain confidential.
After finding out they were positive with COVID-19 the following Monday, they informed The Union so the studio could begin the process of informing other members of the class.
Chretienne Yalung, general manager and director of fitness and development for The Union, said the outbreak was an isolated incident and the studio has since updated its safety standards regarding COVID-19.
According to Yalung, this incident hits close to home for GU, because the exposed class was primarily made up of GU students.
A total of 13 individuals were notified about the positive case via email, prompting them to get tested and quarantine for at least 14 days, which includes staying out of the studio during that time.
While not all 13 participants contracted COVID-19, Yalung said some members of the class who were exposed were confirmed to be infected and informed The Union they had tested positive for COVID-19.
Prior to the outbreak, The Union had implemented several cautionary protocols after its reopening in September. These protocols included having a maximum of 13 people in spin classes, seven in TRX classes and eight in yoga classes.
Additionally, all stations are at least 6 feet apart and participants are temperature checked as well as screened for COVID-19 symptoms and contact upon entry.
While wearing a mask is not required for the duration of class, they must be worn at all times when in common areas such as the lobby.
“We’ve worked closely with the health department to be prepared for any scenario while being ready to adapt or add additional protocols, policies and precautions,” Yalung said.
Following the incident, the maximum number of people allowed in a spin class was reduced from 13 to nine. The Union has also made layout changes within classes and is in the process of obtaining plexiglass barriers to implement in studio rooms.
The Union’s Northside location closed in March after the initial spread of the pandemic. While it remains closed, The Union moved into a new studio on 1309 W. First Ave., which opened for the first time on Sept. 19.
In the past, The Union and GU have shared a close partnership and connection when it comes to student participants. In addition to being a crowd favorite spot to get a workout in, GU offers physical activity courses through the School of Education where students can earn credits by attending classes at The Union.
Despite the potential risk involved with participating in the exercise classes, frequent Union goer, Cameron Orth, said she felt safe going back after the reopening given the implemented safety precautions.
Under ordinary circumstances, Orth would attend classes at The Union two to three times per week.
Orth says the new safety procedures at The Union are very similar to those being practiced at the Rudolf Fitness Center.
In terms of the risk associated with attending classes at The Union, Orth said it is no different from taking part in ordinary, everyday tasks.
“I think this is a risk that each person has to decide for themselves,” Orth said. “There are COVID-19 outbreaks everywhere, [like], the grocery store, a restaurant, even in CM.”
The decision to attend classes at The Union or not is one that should not be taken lightly, Orth said, and should be made to best suit the needs of each person’s health and safety.
“The recent COVID-19 outbreak at The Union has been a good reminder that COVID-19 is still very much present and we must be cautious and aware of it,” Orth said.
In a time of great uncertainty, Yalung said it is important now more than ever to rely on each other to facilitate the necessary changes with care and compassion for the community.
“We have to work together as a team and community to create lasting change in multiple areas of our lives,” Yalung said. “As a manager and instructor, these times have been difficult and in order to grow we have to be ready to adapt and get creative. We have to lean into the uncomfortable and find ways to make meaningful connections in and out of the studio.”