The CEO of a major health system left the company after he said he wouldn’t wear a mask

The CEO of a national health system abruptly left the company after telling employees he wouldn’t wear a mask because he’d already had Covid-19.

In an email to staff last week, Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft said he didn’t need to wear a mask because he’d recovered from the illness and that using one was a “symbolic gesture.”

“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 told staff in an email obtained by CNN last week.

It’s possible, though rare, to be reinfected with Covid-19. And while it’s likely those who recover from Covid-19 will have some degree of immunity, we don’t know yet how long that period of immunity lasts, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

Sanford Health disputed Krabbenhoft’s claims in a series of tweets shortly after his email was published, saying it supported wearing masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Less than a week after he sent the divisive email, Krabbenhoft and Sanford Health have agreed to “mutually part ways,” the company announced Tuesday.

In a statement obtained by CNN affiliate KSFY, Krabbenhoft said he decided Tuesday “was a good time to retire” and said the company he was leaving was “in a good place, stronger than ever.”

CNN has reached out to Sanford Health for more information on Krabbenhoft’s retirement.

South Dakota struggles with Covid-19

Krabbenhoft’s email outraged some staff at the nonprofit company, which is headquartered in South Dakota, as the state has been overwhelmed by Covid-19 since the early fall.

South Dakota is one of the current epicenters of coronavirus in the US, with daily new cases regularly topping 1,000 throughout November, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard. As of Wednesday, the state has recorded close to 75,000 Covid-19 cases and has the second-highest number of cases per 100,000 residents, just behind North Dakota.

Krabbenhoft’s email echoed South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s sentiment on masks. Even as Covid-19 ravaged her state, she refused to mandate masks, questioning their effectiveness despite mounting evidence in their favor and saying it’s up to families to decide whether to wear them.


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