The debate over whether to wear or not wear a mask to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus has ended for the CEO of a South Dakota healthcare system.
Sanford Health’s Kelby Krabbenhoft wrote in an email to staff that he had experienced COVID-19, but had returned to work and wouldn’t be donning a mask.
In the email, obtained by CNN, Krabbenhoft said “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.”
He added, “I have no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture,” CNN reported.
Currently, the US Centers for Disease Control recommends mask-wearing, even if someone has already had COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that first appeared in China in 2019 and that has now sickened over 12 million Americans. It’s unclear if a bout of COVID-19 confers immunity on a patient.
South Dakota is in the midst of a surging COVID-19 outbreak as the US girds itself for a challenging winter of combating the pandemic ahead of hoped-for vaccinations that could arrive in force by early 2020. Governor Kristi Noem hasn’t used the power of state government to compel mask-wearing.
Sanford Health distanced itself from Krabbenhoft’s comments, CNN reported, citing a statement from executive vice-president Micah Aberson.
“Kelby Krabbenhoft’s email was based on his own experience with Covid-19 and his personal opinions about the virus. They do not reflect the views of our health system as a whole,” she told CNN.
The CEO’s email appeared to stem from frustration with inconsistent public-health messaging around masks. In his email, according to CNN, he said that for those who hadn’t contracted COVID-19, masks are a sensible choice.
That didn’t stop Sanford employees from complaining about Krabbenhoft’s position.
“It’s appalling to read this from a hospital CEO,” an unnamed nurse told CNN.
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