Sanford Health has confirmed that longtime CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft has left the company after they "mutually agreed to part ways" just days after his controversial comments regarding face masks.
A statement from the health system's Board of Trustees, which has more than 200 facilities across the Dakotas and Minnesota, confirmed Krabbenhoft's departure after almost 25 years with the company.
In a memo to staff, Krabbenhoft said that he would not always wear face masks in public after recently recovering from COVID-19, saying it would send an "untruthful message that I am susceptible to infection or could transmit it," and that he has "no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture."
A day after his comments were reported, Sanford Health issued a statement distancing the wider company from his views, which comes after a period in which South Dakota has had one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the world.
Taking his place as CEO is Bill Gassen, the company's chief administrative officer who has been with the firm since 2012.
In his own statement, Krabbenhoft said "we decided today would be a good day to retire."
"Sanford is in a good place, strongest ever. It's Thanksgiving week and almost exactly 25 years since my family came here. It is a good time to say 'goodbye.'"
On Tuesday, the Mayo Clinic released initial findings of its own research that found face masks play a vital role in preventing COVID-19 spread, alongside physical distancing.