Illinois hospital responds after video seen of nurse at crowded Wisconsin bar

Coronavirus

WEST ALLIS, Wis. — A hospital based in Illinois has responded after a video was seen of one of their nurses at a crowded Wisconsin bar after the state lifted their stay-at-home orders.

Crowds of people, most without masks, packed bars in Wisconsin hours after the state’s supreme court knocked down their stay-at-home order. Among the revelers was a nurse with ties to a local health organization.

Nurse Katie Koutsky was not shy about identifying herself and her profession when a news crew was covering a story at the bar and interviewed her. Now, her employer, which is headquartered in Illinois, is responding to her actions.

Bars like Limanski’s Pub in West Allis near Milwaukee reopened Thursday, after the state supreme court overturned Gov. Tony Evers stay-at-home order.

“I have a toddler at home and I’m a full-time nurse it’s been very stressful and hard not to go out and be with my friends and family at the bars,” she said to the news crew.

Customers were seen nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, not wearing masks.
The reporter asked the nurse if she was worried.

“I don’t think the risk presents any higher than going to a grocery store,” she said.

The incident was brought up Thursday during a virtual town hall for Advocate Aurora Health — Koutsky’s employer.

Mary Beth Kingston says Advocate Aurora Health screens all employees before their shifts, and ensures they follow the appropriate safety measures on the job.

“We’ve also been working with education with our team members for what they can do to be safe once they leave our hospital walls and certainly we’ll be following up with individual nurses as needed,” Kingston said.

Advocate Aurora Health issued the following statement:

“Given the ongoing education and safety measures we are fully committed to, we’re disappointed.The health and safety of our patients, team members and our community are our highest priorities. As businesses begin to reopen, it’s important we all to continue to practice safety measures that have been effective in stemming the spread including social distancing, thorough handwashing, staying at home when sick and wearing masks in public in accordance with local government guidance.”

WGN reached out by phone to Koutsky on Thursday and reached her husband, who said she had no comment on this story. However on Friday, the nurse issued the following statement:

“Given the intense media scrutiny I have received over these last two days regarding my decision Wednesday evening to go to my sister’s bar to help her with the opening, I decided to issue a public statement. First, while my priority was to support my sister and her attempt to restart her business which has been devastated by this pandemic, I’d like to express my regret for not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing while there. It was a lapse in judgment on my part to not ensure I had my mask prior to leaving my house and to not maintain social distancing – even during the interview requested by the reporter.

As a nurse, I understand the fear and uncertainty everyone is facing and how important it is to practice safety measures not only at sites of care, but while away from work.  I let my guard down and apologize for making anyone feel uncomfortable or at risk. While I do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and there are no indications of exposure, out of an abundance of caution, I am voluntarily self-quarantining for the next seven days. As standard practice at my hospital, I will undergo screening before returning to work.”      

Advocate Aurora Health is based in Downers Grove and has hospitals and medical providers offices in Illinois and Wisconsin.

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