The head of the largest health system in South Dakota said he's not going to wear a mask.
Kelby Krabbenhoft, president of Sanford Health, said he has recovered from COVID-19 and has returned to work. He said he believes he's now immune to the disease and that he isn't a threat to transmit it to anyone. "I have no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture," he said in an email to employees.
Sanford Health requires clinic employees and hospital and clinic visitors to wear masks, according to its website. We haven't heard if Sanford Health intends to change its policy based on Krabbenhoft's email.
We take issue with his refusal to wear a mask and with the hubris of his statement. We do realize the wearing of masks is a flashpoint, even becoming a partisan issue between Republicans and Democrats.
But here are our concerns: First, the immunity to contracting COVID-19 after having had it already isn't clear. People have gotten it two or more times, and even if it does create an immunity, it isn't clear how long it lasts.
Second, the Centers for Disease Control and all major health systems, including Sanford Health, encourage the wearing of masks as perhaps the best defense against contracting COVID-19. Then to have the president of one of the largest systems announce that he won't wear a mask seems empty.
Frankly, what's wrong with a symbolic gesture? We do it all the time, and it can be very powerful. Athletes wear pink socks in honor of those lost to cancer. Some people wear an American flag as a lapel pin. Others wear a black armband when mourning a loss. Many people wear wedding rings as a symbol. Fans wear a team's jersey as a symbolic gesture of support.
And fighting COVID-19 is a lot more important that loyalty to the Minnesota Vikings. We think Krabbenhoft is missing the opportunity to send a great symbolic message. We hope he reconsiders.
-- Jon M. Hunter