Sanford Health CEO is out 

Kelby Krabbenhoft is no longer president and CEO of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health. The development comes after 24 years of Mr. Krabbenhoft's leadership in the top position of the 46-hospital system and days after he wrote an email to 50,000 employees explaining his stance on face coverings amid the most severe COVID-19 surge in the U.S. to date. 

Sanford issued a statement Nov. 24 that the system's board of trustees and Mr. Krabbenhoft "mutually agreed to part ways."

Bill Gassen is promoted from Sanford Health's chief administrative officer to president and CEO of the system, effective immediately. Mr. Gassen has been with the organization since 2012.

"Kelby's impact on the organization and the communities it serves will be felt for generations to come," Brent Teiken, Sanford's board chair, said in a prepared statement.

Mr. Krabbenhoft drew national attention to Sanford Health in the past week after he sent a 1,000-word email detailing his rationale for not wearing a face covering. In his message, sent Nov. 18, Mr. Krabbenhoft said he'd recovered from COVID-19 and he would not wear a mask because doing so would only be a "symbolic gesture." He considered himself immune from the virus.

The CDC says those who have had COVID-19 should take steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, including wearing a mask in public places and staying at least 6 feet away from other people. 

On Nov. 18, South Dakota reported 593 COVID-19 hospitalizations — the second-highest number since the data point was recorded for the state. 

On Nov. 20, Sanford's leadership team addressed Mr. Krabbenhoft's comments in an email sent to all system employees. 

"We know that words matter, and words have power, and we regret that the message left many frustrated and disappointed," the leaders said regarding Mr. Krabbenhoft's message. "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."

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