Let's get this out of the way: Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi is giving serious vampire-with-a-day-job vibes in his recent CNBC appearance.
Chalk it up to some combination of lighting, bone structure, makeup (right?), and hairstyle, but dammit if the Minnesota gym magnate doesn't look like he runs (after people) and lifts (their corpses) five or six days a week, watches who he eats, and gets at least eight hours of sleep per night in a coffin.
Now that's out of the way, let's get to the really scary part of this interview: what Akradi is saying on national television.
Akradi tells reporter Sara Eisen he's eager to reopen his company's six gyms in Georgia, where GOP Gov. Brian Kemp has given salons, fitness centers, tattoo parlors, massage parlors, and -- sure, why not? -- bowling alleys permission to reopen starting today.
Kemp's decision has been criticized by no less a public health expert than Dr. Lysol Injection himself, President Donald Trump, who says he "wasn't happy" with the move. (The Associated Press reports Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had privately encouraged Kemp to do just that. Huh.)
Akradi's all for it. "We're ready."* (UPDATE: See below.) "We're getting everything ready to be sure we open very, very safely, and give the govenor the backing he needs, to prove businesses can be responsible and taking care of their employees and their customers."
Asked for specifics about how his business will "be responsible," Akradi offered a thoroughly confusing response -- one of several, a real feat for such a short interview -- that starts out sounding like it's based in science, then swerves hard toward jibberish.
"This is a great question, and it deserves great thought process. I think at this point we need to let the data support the decision-making, rather than the fear. So, when you go to the grocery store, you touch something, somebody else comes behind you two minutes later, touches that same thing. We also know how amazingly contagious thsi virus is. When you look at the data from universities -- Stanford, or USC, or you look at the data in Iceland -- it's also very, very clear that much, much more number of people are already infected with this virus. The denominator has been reported grossly wrong, and therefore we have created such an incredible fear amongst America, that this is going to hurt everything. The fear is going to be the biggest part of the challenge for having the economy come back. America is built on courage and freedom, both of which are under assault right now."
To summarize: According to "the data," people touch things at grocery stores, Iceland says you pretty much already have coronavirus, America is brave, and God bless the economy.
As Gizmodo notes, Eisen seems increasingly baffled by Akradi, who says "we need to equip the consumer [to] learn how to fight this disease better on their own." Akradi says, our "immune system is hugely capable of overcoming viruses and bacterias," as it already deals with "trillions of viruses and bacterias every day of our lives."
Akradi says getting sunlight, eating healthily, and "20, 30, 40 minutes of mild exercise" will keep your body's immune system strong. Why that exercise needs to come at a Life Time Fitness gym isn't clear. Perhaps Akradi's accountant could explain.
Here's more helpful information from Akradi's personal website.
Focus your attention on box No. 4 here, titled "STOP THE VIRUS FROM CREATING ILLNESS." (If these doctors are so smart, why haven't any of them thought of that yet?). To fight COVID-19, Akradi suggests using a sauna, gargling with Listerine, a Neti pot, and hydroxychloroquine or other "trial drugs and therapies" to "attack the virus immdediately."
Another graphic outlines the "WAR AGAINST OUR DETERIORATING ECONOMY." By picking a date for America to "go back to work" -- Akradi suggests May 1 or May 15 -- we could "empower boardrooms and CEOs to mobilize and plan how to resume."
Right. Because if there's anything we learned from this CNBC interview, it's that we need to "empower" guys like Bahram Akradi.
Speaking with utter confidence, he told the audience seeking treatment in overcrowded hospitals is not the solution. "I think we can solve the problem with a few hundred dollars’ worth of drugs, rather than having them go to ICU. So this, over the next few weeks, more path will become clear on how we can have early attack on the virus when somebody’s infected."
Georgia's Life Time Fitness members are free, effective today* (UPDATE: or not: see below!), to show their "courage" and patriotism by breathing heavily on strangers. Those who frequent the couple dozen Minnesota locations will have to wait until May 4, at the earliest, per Gov. Tim Walz's order. Until then, those members will get their dues refunded, and can get in some exercise at home by trying to follow Bahram Akradi's logic.
Watch his full appearance below. Be sure to stay for the exciting end, as Akradi escapes his home office just moments before Scooby and Shaggy come bursting through the door.
UPDATE: Turns out when Bahram Akradi said "We're ready," he didn't mean, like, now. In a statement to City Pages, a spokesperson for Life Time said the gym chain's Georgia facilites will not be open today, not has an opening date been set. Life Time also issued the following statement:
"Life Time is committed to providing safe and healthy environments for our members. This commitment has never been more important than it is now given the current COVID-19 pandemic. When we feel our customers have the utmost confidence and peace of mind that they are totally safe when they enter our clubs, we will open our doors and not any sooner. We do not currently have reopening dates set in any location, including Georgia, which has lifted its guidance that gyms be closed.
Additionally, we realize that the reopening of our clubs must be done with caution and enhanced, rigorous cleaning protocols in place. As such, our teams have been diligently working through detailed plans and safety protocols that will allow us to provide the cleanest and safest environments possible through relentless cleaning and strategic use of Life Time’s vast square footage to allow for ample physical distancing. We will continue to refine these protocols so that we are ready to serve our members when the time is right."