By Joseph Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS
World Instructor Training Schools
The murmuring of cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant has sounded the alarms of multiple public health agencies throughout the US in recent days. As of Tuesday, July 20th, the Delta variant represents 83% of new COVID-19 cases — which since the middle of July has averaged 32,837 new cases per day nationwide. Additionally, hospitalizations in that same span are up 35% from the week prior according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Delta variant’s ascension comes at a time as many of us are finally settling back to the settings in which were most comfortable working with our clients, athletes, and students.
Let’s first dispel some falsehoods about the Delta variant and provide fitness professionals and facility operators suggestions on how to remain open in light of its recent proliferation.
1. The Delta variant is more dangerous than COVID-19. FALSE.
Variants are mutations of a virus and festooned nomenclature, in this case Greek alphabet characters to differentiate them from the original virus (COVID-19 Alpha) and other forms. A hallmark of the Delta variant are pronounced spike proteins which make it easier to penetrate cells and gain entry into angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) which are found within the cells of the skin, smooth muscles, bronchial tract, and sebaceous and eccrine glands. Delta variant is highly transmissible and potentially more contagious than COVID-19 but no more dangerous.
It is worth noting that COVID-19 Alpha or Delta, among other coronaviruses and influenza can pose elevated dangers to immunocompromised, elderly, or individuals with cardiometabolic or pulmonary conditions.
2. The Delta variant is immune to vaccination. FALSE.
Emerging reports suggest that susceptibility to contracting the Delta variant can be allayed by vaccination. An examination of cases tied to a gymnastics facility in Oklahoma revealed that 85% of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated. Vaccination status was not only correlated with transmission risk, but severity of symptoms and probability of hospitalization.
3. Working out will weaken my body’s natural defense system and make me vulnerable to contracting the Delta variant. FALSE.
While singular bouts of physical activity have been shown to impede immunological function, it is only temporary and lasts for a few hours. However, there is a significant amount of evidence to suggest that individuals who maintain an active lifestyle and engage in sufficient, regular physical activity bolsters multiple body systems and their functions, including the immune system.
As we learned from the unprecedented events of 2020, it pays to prepare. Fitness professionals and facility operators should be prepared to transition into hybrid, reduced participant, block-scheduled, or remote models, when appropriate and if possible, especially as concerns about the Delta variant continue to grow. Facility operators could reemploy measures from late 2020 and earlier this year to include social distancing and enhanced cleaning measures — Remember, there is no substitute for hand hygiene and facility cleanliness. Additionally, ensuring that fitness spaces are immersed in areas conducive to ventilation, whether naturally (outdoors or near open doors and windows) or mechanically (via HVAC system and fans). The HVAC system should provide a minimum of 20 air changes per hour. The air change per hour rate demand increases with number of occupants and those individuals are active.