Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi stood outside a health club Wednesday and pleaded to Gov. Tim Walz to reconsider shutting down gyms and fitness centers as part of his latest executive order, which is detailed here and will go into effect Friday at 11:59 p.m.
Akradi argued with the state's reasoning for shutting gyms and fitness centers down, saying the data the state cites doesn't paint the picture that they are a problem.
According to the data, 48 outbreaks at Minnesota clubs have contact traced for a total of 747 cases out of the 242,043 total cases, though health officials have noted that the point of transmission in the community in a growing number of cases is unknown.
There were 24 outbreaks linked to gyms and fitness centers in August, 20 in September and four in October. So far the data shows no new outbreaks in November. From an outbreak perspective, gyms account for just over 10% of 400+ outbreaks that have been linked to all types of social gatherings, including bars and restaurants, weddings, sports, social gatherings, salons, church and funerals.
"That fact actually suggests that the clubs are amongst the lowest places that are spreading this virus relative to any sort of retail which are open with virtually no protocols," said Akradi.
"If the facts supported that closing our healthy-way-of-life places would be beneficial to the public, we would be doing it voluntarily, immediately," he added.
Akradi called Life Time Fitness a "total safe haven" that employs "extreme protocols" that other businesses that are allowed to stay open aren't implementing.
"This is unfair, an unjust approach at solving a problem that is real."
Akradi fears that a full shutdown of gyms will force him to layoff approximately 4,000 workers, just as he was forced to do during the state's Stay-at-Home order in the spring.
"We have brought back 4,000 of our people since we reopened the clubs in Minnesota. With a complete shutdown, which I will not accept, I would have to send 4,000 employees back home at a time when there is no stimulus money for them, right before the holidays. How can we do this?" he said.
"We are here to help. This virus is serious and everybody needs to chip in. It is completely unfair to just randomly pick on 2, 3 or 4 industries thinking that that appeases the public. That is unfair."
Akradi said he's proposed to the Walz Administration that Life Time drop capacity maximums to 10% and ensure that members wear masks for the duration of a workout if it means they can stay open.
"We will do whatever it takes," he said.
In an email, Akradi urged members to "send a very respectful, non-political message to Minnesota officials, expressing your desire to keep your clubs open."