Press "Enter" to skip to content

Novstrup Follows Krabbenhoft’s Bad Example, Sees No Reason to Mask Up After Coronavirus Infection

A couple months ago, Sanford Hospital CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft informed his employees that he’d recovered from covid-19 and thus didn’t have to wear a mask:

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 [Kelby Krabbenhoft, e-mail to Sanford Health staff, posted in “Sanford Health Social Media Post Calls for People to Wear Masks, Physical Distance After CEO Emails Company Why He Doesn’t Wear Masks,” KELO-TV, 2020.11.20].

Health care professionals were understandably disappointed with CEO Krabbenhoft’s unscientific opinion:

…Dr. Kathy Anderson, president of the North Dakota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Krabbenhoft’s message was “definitely not helpful” and “an especially dangerous message to be sending right now in North Dakota.”

It’s hard for ordinary people to know what to believe given all the conflicting messages they’re getting, Anderson said. And she said it’s important for people to know he is not a physician.

“Leaders across the state and across the nation need to understand the power of leadership,” Anderson said. “The power of leadership is not only in telling others what they need to do. The power of leadership is in modeling behavior that is necessary for others to follow.”

Tessa Johnson, president of the North Dakota Nurses Association, called Krabbenhoft’s message “disheartening.”

“I think one of the things is that we have really tried hard to get the public’s support for wearing a mask and social distancing,” she said. “And when a public figure says the opposite, it just confuses people” [Steve Karnowski and Doug Glass, “Midwest Health System CEO Says He Had Virus, Won’t Wear Mask,” AP, 2020.11.20].

And five days later, Krabbenhoft lost his job.

Last Saturday, Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) explained that he was not following Northern State University’s coronavirus mask requirement at Saturday’s crackerbarrel because he already had coronavirus and thus doesn’t have to wear a mask:

Audience member Scott Cunningham asked Novstrup, Perry, Dennert and Weis why they weren’t wearing masks during the latter part of the cracker barrel even though face coverings are required inside on the Northern State campus.

Perry said he took his mask off while answering questions, but wore it while visiting with others and walking to the front of the room. He later put his mask back on.

Dennert said he lives with Perry and Novstrup during the session in Pierre — they were sitting next to each other Saturday — and has had COVID-19. He said he would put his mask on again after the cracker barrel.

Novstrup said he, too, has had the COVID-19 virus. He said he was following CDC guidelines, was not a threat to anybody and wasn’t going to wear a face covering just for show.

Weis did not respond [Scott Waltman, “Flush with Cash, Legislature Has Plenty of Requests—Including for Veterans Center {paywall},” Aberdeen American News, 2021.01.31].

Novstrup’s response is strange, because he was apparently making a show of wearing a mask at the start of the crackerbarrel:

Sen. Al Novstrup, in red shirt, masked before start of Aberdeen crackerbarrel, speaking with fellow masked legislators Carl Perry (standing) and Michael Rohl (seated). Screen cap from Dakota Broadcasting video, 2021.01.30.
Sen. Al Novstrup, in red shirt, masked before start of Aberdeen crackerbarrel, speaking with fellow masked legislators Carl Perry (standing) and Michael Rohl (seated). Screen cap from Dakota Broadcasting video, 2021.01.30.

So if Al really believed what he said about immunity, why did he bother bringing that mask? Why did he proceed to contradict what looked like a good example at the start with a mixed message?

Sen. Al Novstrup, unmasked for most of the crackerbarrel. SCreen cap, Dakota Broadcasting video, 2021.01.30
Sen. Al Novstrup, unmasked for most of the crackerbarrel. Screen cap, Dakota Broadcasting video, 2021.01.30

Novstrup’s mixed message is as wrong now as Krabbenhoft’s was in November, for three main reasons:

  1. Rules are rules: NSU and the Regents require masks in indoor spaces. They don’t carve out exceptions for people who say they’ve already had coronavirus. Neither does the CDC, which says, “Everyone 2 years of age and older should wear a mask in public settings and when they are around people who do not live in their household.” The new CDC mask-travel rules don’t say that bus drivers and train conductors and airplane pilots are going to ask everyone boarding if they’ve had coronavirus and let those who say “Yes!” on board without a mask. Lawmakers shouldn’t break rules. Lawmakers should not claim to be following CDC rules when they aren’t.
  2. Set an example: If recovering from coronavirus did mean one could safely go maskless indoors in public for the rest of the pandemic, the majority of people seeing Novstrup and Krabbenhoft in public indoor spaces wouldn’t know those two leaders had been sick. They’d just see two older white men projecting authority and sending the message that masks aren’t necessary. Some folks seeing their example without knowing the context will follow that bad example, and spread the example and probably the coronavirus to others.
  3. Al’s no scientist: Maybe covid immunity post-infection lasts six months; maybe it doesn’t. Even if you are immune, research says you could still be carrying and spreading coronavirus:

[Public Health England] also warned that although those with antibodies have some protection from becoming ill with COVID-19 themselves, early evidence from the next stage of the study suggests that some of these individuals carry high levels of virus and could continue to transmit the virus to others.

It is therefore crucial that everyone continues to follow the rules and stays at home, even if they have previously had COVID-19, to prevent spreading the virus to others. Remember to wash hands regularly, wear face coverings and make space from others to help reduce the likelihood of passing on the virus.

…Professor Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Advisor at Public Health England and the SIREN study lead said:

This study has given us the clearest picture to date of the nature of antibody protection against COVID-19 but it is critical people do not misunderstand these early findings.

We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.

This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others. Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives [Public Health England, press release, 2021.01.14].

Krabbenhoft’s irresponsible behavior hastened his departure from a pretty good job. Alas, Novstrup’s irresponsible behavior will not lead to any similar swift consequences: his caucus will probably pat him on the back for his defiance of Northern’s sissy mask rules, and, as owner of his own bumper-car palaces in Sioux Falls, Watertown, Aberdeen, and Fargo, he faces no board to fire him for setting a bad example.

But I’ll be darned if I’ll attend a public forum or set foot in a business where I know the owner doesn’t think he has to follow the rules to keep other people safe.


  1. mike from iowa 2021-02-02 08:33

    Last updated: February 02, 2021, 14:21 GMT
    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:
    1990 bodies counted of a Monday.

  2. Chris S. 2021-02-02 12:24

    Having had a virus or a vaccination doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immune to it like Superman. Sometimes it means you could catch it again, but the symptoms will be milder. Or you could catch it again and be asymptomatic, but still able to spread it around—so until the pandemic is under control, be a good neighbor and wear your dang mask!

  3. RST Tribal Member at 57572 2021-02-03 06:57

    Asking knuckleheads to set good examples and follow rules set up for everyone to protect everybody is expecting too much from the knuckleheads. The 1 party state elected guys and gals have decided to be “should do, can’t do” leaders. The similarities between the pathways of the COVID-19 virus and our 1 party state is striking, in that, both mutate to keep existing with each variation being worst then the previous. Herd immunity can be good or can be bad; it’s about what the infection is doing to society.

  4. mike from iowa 2021-02-03 08:21

    Last updated: February 03, 2021, 13:50 GMT
    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    3404 bodies counted Tuesday.

  5. jake 2021-02-03 15:53

    Thanks, MFI, the frequent update is a cool idea!

  6. robin friday 2021-02-03 16:13

    I thank you also, mfi. Sadly, it’s far from over.

  7. leslie 2021-02-03 16:48

    “saw her today at the reception
    In her glass was a bleeding man
    She was practiced at the art of deception
    Well, I could tell by her blood-stained hands.

    You cain’t always get….”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.