- Real Estate
- Food & Drink
Nov. 20, 2020
Sanford Health said an email sent to staff by CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft was based on his own experience with COVID-19 and his personal opinions about the virus.
In it, he told staff he’d had COVID-19, had returned to the office and because he believes himself now unable to transit the virus, he does not plan to wear a mask in work settings.
“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 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 as 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.”
Sanford released the following statement today, attributed to 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. Sanford Health’s position is the same as it has always been – consistently wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying home if you’re sick are critical to preventing the spread of the virus. It is important to follow CDC guidelines. We continue to be incredibly grateful to our front-line workers who are stepping up every day to take care of our patients.”
In a subsequent interview with SiouxFalls.Business after sending the email, Krabbenhoft clarified that he plans to comply with the city’s newly passed ordinance that requires masks in most settings where physical distancing can’t be maintained and to follow policies involving masks in businesses.
“I’m going to try to make real good, common-sense decisions, so I tried to explain why I am coming to the issues that I am,” he said. “When I’m at Hy-Vee, I’ll wear a mask. I’m not going to put some clerk in a tough spot. I’m going to be respectful and sincere about all that. But when I’m working day in and day out, they’ll see me in meetings, and there’s no reason for me to wear a mask.”
Sanford’s leadership team sent another all-staff email today, attributed to chief operating officer Matt Hocks that read in part:
“On Wednesday evening, Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and chief executive officer, sent an email to you, our 50,000 employees, because he had a strong desire to share his personal experience with COVID-19 and his opinions about this virus. We know that words matter, and words have power, and we regret that the message left many frustrated and disappointed. You are our heroes working tirelessly to take care of our patients, and we hear you, support you and appreciate you.
“We want you to know unequivocally that our health system’s position has not changed. We will continue to let science guide the work that we do every day to keep our communities healthy and safe. The science is clear, masks work. When it comes to immunity, the science is evolving, and we must continue to follow CDC guidelines. Whether you’ve had the virus or not, it is recommended that you wear a mask when you cannot be socially distanced. Our masking policy for Sanford Health remains unchanged.
“We stand united in this call-to-action to our communities: In order for masks to be effective in reducing the spread of this virus, we need everyone to wear one.”
Hocks went on to say the situation regionally is serious. Because hospitalizations lag two to three weeks behind positive tests, Sanford’s
“data projections show that we could see more than 200 additional hospitalizations in the weeks following Thanksgiving if people gather with friends or members of other households in large groups,” he said.
“We can’t say it enough: We need everyone in the community do their part so we can take care of those who need us.
“We are grateful to our Sanford family, who show up every day out of a deep sense of calling to care for all patients who come through the door. We know that we are not living and working in normal times, that many of you are taking on additional responsibilities, working longer hours and agreeing to more shifts. We can hear the fatigue in your voices, and we can see it on your faces. We hear you, and we are behind you.
“As we look ahead to the coming months, we are incredibly optimistic. We are at a pivotal moment – from new treatment therapies to a promising new vaccine and innovative ways to deliver care at home. There’s reason for hope and light on the horizon. Let’s continue to take care of each other so we cross the finish line together. We are indebted to you and have such great pride in your dedication to taking care of our patients and communities.”
Here is the complete text of Krabbenhoft’s Nov. 18 email:
“I contracted the virus, felt the uncertainty that accompanied the word ‘positive,’ endured the symptoms, complied with quarantine and all protocols, experienced the lagging coughs and fatigue — but I’m back in my office, working on the priorities of Sanford and most of all focusing on making sure we live up to the expectations of everyone who trusts us with their care and doing everything I can to support you and thank you for creating the most significant standard of calm, professional, consistently compassionate and steady care for your fellow Sanford family members and everyone who relies on you for factual, truthful and common-sensed information in today’s chaotic times.
“I have had the virus.
“So what does that mean? Every Monday I assemble the best leadership in this part of our nation, around me for our weekly meeting. I am briefed daily about the state of Sanford and this virus, and the 90 percent of other patients seeking care for all their concerns unrelated to the virus. But every Monday, I ask what we know about the virus. From the appropriate use of masks to vaccine development and distribution to policies on visitation to staff that are affected by the virus and the research on immunity and safety, and more.
“For 37 weeks, the best infectious disease physicians, immunologists, the president of Sanford Research, the Sanford chief medical officer, the president of Sanford’s Physician Group, the Sanford chief operating officer and the Sanford chief nursing officer, all answer the same questions I ask every week so I know if the science, the truth, the facts and common sense have changed.
“For 37 weeks, some things have changed:
“I have had the virus.
“What does that mean to me and others that have had it like me?
“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. 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 as 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.
“These are serious issues, and they require us to humbly acknowledge that to stand up and honor the truth and advice we know about the virus is lonely, not popular or subject to criticism. We need to stand on the high ground of science, facts and truth anyway. These are serious matters. I know that an overwhelming number of you will take this note as intended, that it reflects the best information and advice that we have at Sanford and beyond. I pray we are significantly united in this situation. There is always room for those who might see it differently and, as always, I would hope for a respectful and reasoned opportunity to discuss concerns, either with myself or any of my executive team, whom you know well.
“I am optimistic about our future, we are extremely strong and are experiencing the most significant performance in our history. From the amount of daily care we are giving people in 26 states, to contributions we are making in research and solutions, to our business affairs, we are an incredible organization. My optimism is held quietly, however, because of those who are hurting emotionally by this virus, because we have lost family members to this virus and that this virus has seemingly found a way to divide so many from a common struggle, that appears to have a remarkably positive outcome.
“I have had the virus. A vaccine is being readied for distribution. As a people we have suffered, but we have overcome.
“Please travel safely, we need you.”
Sanford Health leadership: CEO’s email on COVID-19, masks, “do not reflect the views of our health system as a whole.”