Sanford Health CEO: I’ve had COVID-19, won’t wear a mask as ‘symbolic gesture’


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Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft shared his thoughts about having COVID-19 and why he won’t be wearing a mask in an email to health system staff, according to the Grand Forks Herald

In the 1,000-word email sent Nov. 18, Mr. Krabbenhoft said he had COVID-19, but he’s now back in his office working without a mask. He said he won’t be wearing a mask because doing so would only be a “symbolic gesture.” He considers himself immune from the virus.

“The information, science, truth, advice and growing evidence is that I am immune for at least seven months and perhaps for years to come, similar to that of chicken pox, measles, etc. For me to wear a mask defies the efficacy and purpose of a mask and sends an untruthful message that I am susceptible to infection or could transmit it,” Mr. Krabbenhoft wrote. “I have no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture when I consider that my actions in support of our family leave zero doubt to my support of all 50,000 of you. My team and I have a duty to express the truth and facts and reality and not feed the opposite.” 

The CDC says those who have had COVID-19 should take steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, including wearing a mask in public places and staying at least 6 feet away from other people. 

In his email, Mr. Krabbenhoft argues the “on-again, off-again” use of masks is absurd. “Masks have been a symbolic issue that frankly frustrates me,” he wrote. 

“On the other hand, for people who have not contracted the virus and may acquire it and then spread it … it is important for them to know that masks are just plain smart to use and in their best interest,” Mr. Krabbenhoft wrote. 

The health system CEO concluded his letter by sharing his optimism for the future, noting that some Sanford Health workers would be among the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it is available. 

Sanford Health didn’t respond to Becker’s Hospital Review‘s request for comment by deadline. 

Read the Grand Forks Herald article here, which includes full text of the email Mr. Krabbenhoft sent to employees.

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