POST 75. November 21, 2020. CORONAVIRUS. “The president and CEO of one of the nation’s largest non-profit health systems says he won’t be wearing a mask at work because he’s recovered from COVID-19, and doing so would only be a “symbolic gesture” because he considers himself immune from the virus….

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“….Kelby Krabbenhoft of South Dakota-based Sanford Health laid out his thoughts about having COVID-19, and why he wouldn’t be wearing a mask, in an email sent to health system employees late Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 18, and obtained from multiple sources by Forum News Service.

Krabbenhoft said he is still experiencing “lagging coughs and fatigue,” but told employees he was back in the office — without a mask.

“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 said. “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.”

Krabbenhoft’s 1,000-word email provides a unique window into the thinking of the leader of the large health system, which has notably not joined cross-town rival Avera Health in supporting a public mask mandate in Sioux Falls, its hometown, even as local and statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations have surged.

Sanford Health employs about 48,000 and has major medical centers and more than 200 clinics in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota….

State health officials said then they’re still waiting for large-scale studies to know if and how long a COVID-19 survivor retains antibodies to the point that they’re immune from reinfection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently says that in lieu of a full understanding about reinfection, those who have had COVID-19 should join those who haven’t in taking steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, by wearing masks in public places, social distancing and hand hygiene.

“The duration and robustness of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 remains under investigation,” the CDC states, using the technical term for the virus that causes COVID-19, in a summary updated Oct. 19. “Based on what we know from other related human coronaviruses, people appear to become susceptible to reinfection around 90 days after onset of infection.”” (A)

“In a statement to Becker’s, Micah Aberson, executive vice president at Sanford, said Mr. Krabbenhoft’s opinions do not reflect the views of Sanford.

“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,” Mr. Aberson said. “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 frontline workers who are stepping up every day to take care of our patients.”

On Nov. 20, Sanford’s leadership team addressed Mr. Krabbenhoft’s comments in an email sent to the system’s 50,000 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. 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.”” (B)

“As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in Ohio, Cleveland-area hospital leaders are concerned about the growing number of health care workers who are out sick with the coronavirus. 

According to hospital officials, about 800 Cleveland Clinic employees, 200 at University Hospitals, and 60 MetroHealth staffers are out, making it more difficult to care for the rising number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Cuyahoga County. 

“If we have many of our staff out because of exposure, while there’s a large influx of COVID patients, we will not be able to provide the best care to everyone who needs it,” said MetroHealth CEO and President Dr. Akram Boutros.

The health care workers are either diagnosed with COVID-19, in the required 10-day waiting period since symptom onset or are recovering and awaiting symptom clearance to return to work, health officials said.

Contact tracing shows the employees are not contracting the virus at work, but out in the community, Boutros said at a Monday news conference.

“They have contact with family members, they go to church, they go to gatherings… that’s where they get it from,” he said, “a child, a cousin, somebody they went to a restaurant with, somebody they went to the gym with.” 

The area hospitals are anticipating a “greater influx” of COVID-19 patients in the next few weeks, officials said. Currently, there are about 400 patients hospitalized across Cleveland Clinic’s Northeast Ohio locations, said CEO Dr. Tom Mihaljevic.

There are about 200 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at University Hospitals (UH), and the health system is averaging 25 to 30 new COVID-19 patients per day, said UH president Dr. Cliff Megerian.

If trends do not improve, the hospitals could be nearing capacity by the end of the year, Megerian said.

“If we average the increase over the last month, we could see ourselves, by Christmastime, getting up to 800 patients, a four-fold increase, so obviously we’re hoping that does not happen,” he said.

While there is sufficient capacity to treat patients across the Northeast Ohio health care systems for now, Boutros said, the three hospitals will work together on a surge plan, such as preparing buildings for overflow patients, if needed, in the coming weeks.” (C) 

‘Fearing staffing shortages as COVID-19 hospitalizations soar toward new records, several major Michigan health systems are telling employees to report to work, even if they’ve recently had a close or household contact with someone who has COVID-19.

So long as they’re asymptomatic, those employees are required to do their jobs while awaiting test results, according to policies at Michigan Medicine, Beaumont Health, Munson Healthcare and others.

Several health systems say those results are available within 24 to 48 hours. But in areas where testing shortages are causing delays, those results can take up to five days, including at Munson Healthcare, northern Michigan’s largest health system.

Munson employees have been instructed to report to work even if “asked to quarantine by your local health department,” as long as they’re asymptomatic and awaiting test results.

“You are an essential worker because you are in the healthcare field,” staff instructions read. “You may still work to work (sic) even after an exposure as long as you are asymptomatic.

“Other than coming to work, you should quarantine at home. This means only leaving your home to come to work. Other than coming to work, please follow the other guidelines from the Health Department. These may include self-monitoring and limiting exposure to others, even within your own household.” …

Due to short staffing, Mercy Health staff in Muskegon are also being asked to work on COVID-19 floors while they wait for test results, says Kevin Lignell, a spokesperson for SEIU Healthcare Michigan, the union representing workers.” (D)

“More than 1,000 hospitals across the United States are “critically” short on staff, according to numbers released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Those hospitals, which span all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, represent about 18% of all hospitals that report their staffing status to HHS. And that number is expected to grow: 21% of all hospitals reporting say they anticipate having critical staffing shortages in the next week.

The worst-hit state is North Dakota with 51% of hospitals that reported saying they’re facing shortages; seven states say over 30% of their hospitals are in trouble…

Looking ahead toward the next week, additional hospitals report expecting staffing shortages in 40 states, as well as Puerto Rico. Nebraska, Virginia and Missouri top the list in places that are expected to have the biggest upticks.” (E)

“The United States is seeing the fastest spread yet of the coronavirus, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said in its first public briefing in four months on Thursday.

Yet, task force members spoke out against the idea of nationwide lockdowns or school closures and held out hope that a vaccine will soon be available to help protect Americans.

Dr. Deborah Birx, once a senior member of the task force, said she’s been traveling the country trying to encourage governors and other state and local leaders to enact measures that will stop the spread of the virus…

But other members of the task force said they would not support a nationwide lockdown.

“President Trump wanted me to make it clear that our task force, this administration and our President, does not support another national lockdown. And we do not support closing schools,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the briefing.” (F)

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