London spin studio owner worries new safety measures will sink group fitness

With new measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 for fitness studios, restaurants and personal care providers, one local fitness facility is questioning whether they can survive another financial hit sprung by the ongoing pandemic.

Courtney Grafton opened Lost Cycle, a rhythm-riding, indoor cycling studio in south London, just a little more than a year ago.

Since being allowed to reopen back in July, the studio has been able to offer classes at pre-pandemic capacity while keeping riders and staff two metres apart, but Grafton doesn’t think she’ll be able to keep afloat with the new cap of 10 people, including the instructor, per class. 

“Our classes are built off of an environment of a group fitness class and by limiting that so much, it makes us almost impossible to operate,” she said.

“No one needs to be a mathematician to figure out that the numbers they’re giving us with the amount that it costs me to operate a business do not add up. I cannot survive off of nine people in a class, while still paying [instructors] their regular rate.” 

In the last few months, the studio has been able to weather the storm thanks to constant support from dedicated cyclists in the city who have been keeping the studio’s 21 weekly classes fairly busy, despite an outbreak at Spinco, a cycling studio in Hamilton that has made headlines across the country for being linked to 81 COVID-19 cases. 

“I don’t get to decide how scared someone is,” Grafton said. “I really feel for Spinco … but it’s a full time job to make sure that everything is cleaned properly … You have to really be diligent and treat it very, very seriously every single day. You don’t get a break from it,” she said, adding that her biggest expenses are cleaning supplies, including a steam cleaner staff use on bikes in between each class. 

Keeping bikes two metres apart from one another, steam cleaning them in between rides, having staff wear microphones to reduce the need to shout in class as well as checking every rider’s temperature ahead of class are some of the guidelines the fitness studios has already been following. Now, they’ll have to bring capacity down to 10 and space bikes by three metres, along with the other measures already taken. (Submitted by Courtney Grafton)

On Wednesday, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, cited the outbreak in the Hamilton cycling studio as an example of why he’s decided to implement the new measures, despite the absence any outbreaks linked to fitness facilities in the region. 

“That’s the sort of thing where we’re not going to sit around and wait for a huge outbreak in our community before taking some reasonable actions that will potentially eliminate the possibility of having that level of outbreak at all,” he said. 

“As much as we watch very closely what is happening in our community and learn from the cases and outbreaks we have here,

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Number of South Koreans dying after flu shot rises, prompts vaccine worries

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – At least 13 South Koreans have died after receiving flu shots in recent days, according to official and local media reports, ramping up fears about vaccine safety even as authorities rule out a link.

Health authorities said on Wednesday they had no plans to suspend a programme to inoculate around 19 million people for free after a preliminary investigation into six deaths found no direct connection to the vaccines.

No toxic substances had been found in the vaccines, and at least five of the six people investigated had underlying conditions, officials said.

Officials have reported nine deaths following flu vaccinations and the Yonhap news agency reported another four on Thursday.

The deaths, which include a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 70s, come just a week after the free flu shot programme for teenagers and senior citizens was restarted.

The programme was suspended for three weeks after it was discovered that some 5 million doses, which need to be refrigerated, had been exposed to room temperature while being transported to a medical facility.

South Korea’s vaccines come from a variety of sources. Manufacturers include local drug makers GC Pharma, SK Bioscience and Ilyang Pharmaceutical Co, along with France’s Sanofi and Britain’s Glaxosmithkline. Distributors include LG Chem Ltd and Boryung Biopharma Co. Ltd., a unit of Boryung Pharm Co. Ltd..

GC Pharma, LG Chem, SK Bioscience and Boryung declined to comment. Ilyang Pharmaceutical, Sanofi and GSK could not immediately be reached for comment.

South Korea had extended its seasonal vaccine programme this year to ward off any potential COVID-19 complications and overburdening hospitals over the winter.

Officials said 8.3 million people have been inoculated with the free flu vaccine since it resumed on Oct. 13, with around 350 cases of adverse reactions reported.

The highest number of deaths linked to the seasonal flu vaccination was six in 2005, according to the Yonhap news agency. Officials have said it is difficult to make comparisons to previous years because of the greater numbers of people taking the vaccine this year.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Sangmi Cha; editing by Jane Wardell)

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States prepare for their own vaccine safety reviews amid worries about Trump’s influence on the FDA

“Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in announcing his state’s vaccine review panel. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who announced his state’s 11 member panel of doctors and scientists on Monday said: “Of course we won’t take anyone’s word for it.”

President Donald Trump’s intense push for a vaccine before the election – which is now virtually impossible given that none of the leading vaccine candidates will be ready by then — on top of administration pressure on the FDA and Centers for Disease Control, have sowed growing public doubt about vaccine safety, particularly as the research into the shots has progressed at an unprecedented breakneck pace.

A CNN poll from earlier this month showed only about half of Americans might get a vaccine, while a more recent Stat News poll revealed 58 percent of the U.S. public said they would get vaccinated as soon as a vaccine was available – a big decline over its prior poll. If large numbers of people spurn the shot, its power to beat back the pandemic is diminished.

States have not yet released a lot of details about their vaccine reviews. The additional layer of oversight raises questions about whether a state agency could impede use of a federally-approved vaccine, and whether they could end up slowing down the pandemic response, rather than enhancing it.

Even though governors say they are protecting their residents in case pressure from the White House leads the FDA to approve a flawed vaccine, some officials and public health advocates are warning that these state interventions could confuse the public and prevent people from seeking a shot even if it is safe and effective.

It is “hard to see how any state could replicate anything like the national, gold standard system” of FDA approval, said former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan, who now heads a major health policy center at Duke.

Critics of the state review panels include both Republicans in Congress as well as nonpartisan public health experts in both the advocacy and academic worlds.

Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the outgoing top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FDA, called the state vaccine panels a “reckless” idea that would “dangerously undermine the FDA” and increase public vaccine hesitancy.

Walden told a recent committee hearing that the FDA had ample safeguards, including an independent data safety monitoring board for each vaccine trial, as well as the outside experts that serve on the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn has said the advisory panel, which meets for the first time to discuss Covid-19 vaccines this Thursday, will review every vaccine prior to an emergency authorization or approval.

States “would be hard-pressed to find more qualified experts” than those already on the FDA and CDC advisory panels, said Amy Pisani, executive director of the nonprofit Vaccinate Your Family. Their “recommendations will speak for themselves,” she said.

Traditionally the states have

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