The debate over whether or not to wear a mask to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus has ended for the chief executive of the South Dakota Health System.
Kelby Crabbenhoft of Sanford Health wrote in an email to staff that he had survived COVID-19 but had returned to work and would not be wearing a mask.
In an email received from CNN, Krabbenhoft said, “For me, wearing a mask opposes the efficacy and purpose of a mask and sends a false 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 wearing masks, even if someone has already had COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, which first appeared in China in 2019 and has now infected more than 12 million Americans. It is not clear whether an attack of COVID-19 confers immunity to a patient.
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South Dakota is in the midst of a growing outbreak of COVID-19 as the United States prepares for a challenging winter to fight the pandemic ahead of expected vaccinations, which could take effect by early 2020. Gov. Christy Noem has not used state power government to force the wearing of masks.
Sanford Health has distanced itself from Krabbenhoft’s comments, CNN reported, citing a statement from Executive Vice President Mika Aberson.
“Kelby Krabenhoft’s email is based on his own experience with Covid-19 and his personal views on the virus. They do not reflect the views of our health care system as a whole,” she told CNN.
The CEO’s email appears to stem from frustration with inconsistent public health reports surrounding the masks. In his email, according to CNN, he said that for those who have not agreed with COVID-19, masks are a reasonable choice.
That didn’t stop Sanford employees from complaining about Krabbenhoft’s position.
“It’s horrifying to read this from a hospital executive,” an unnamed nurse told CNN.