Sanford Health Systems CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft is stepping down after sending a controversial email about his recovery from the coronavirus.
Sanford Health’s Board of Trustees announced on Wednesday that the two have “mutually agreed to party ways.” Krabbenhoft had been serving as the company’s CEO since 1996.
Krabbenhoft told employees in an email last Wednesday that he believes he’s immune to COVID-19 “for at least seven months and perhaps years to come” adding that he isn’t a threat to transmit the virus, according to the The Associated Press. He also said that wearing a mask was merely for show.
“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,” according to the email obtained by AP last week. “I have no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture. … My team and I have a duty to express the truth and facts and reality and not feed the opposite.”
Krabbenhoft also contradicted his own medical director about the severity of the pandemic in an interview with CBS News. He told the news outlet that “it’s hard for me to say we are at a crisis,” while the company’s medical director, Allison Suttle, said she would call the coronavirus pandemic a crisis
Based in Sioux Falls, S.D., Sanford Health has 46 hospitals and more than 200 clinics in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa, CBS notes. It is preparing to merge with Intermountain Healthcare of Utah.
North Dakota and South Dakota are both dealing with worsening coronavirus outbreaks in their states, CBS notes.
Meanwhile, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgman (R) issued a mandatory mask order earlier this month for indoor businesses and public settings, as well as outdoor settings where physical distancing isn’t possible. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has also issued a new mask mandate despite previously resisting.
The U.S. as a whole is gearing up for an increase in COVID-19 cases in the winter months as experts warn that the colder weather will force people to spend more time indoors, where the virus can more easily spread.