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Assistant nurse in Berrien County sent home for wearing homemade protective mask

NOW: Assistant nurse in Berrien County sent home for wearing homemade protective mask

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. – An assistant nurse from Buchanan told ABC57 that she was sent home on Wednesday after wearing a homemade protective mask to work.

Tracey Johnson works at the Caretel Inn located in St. Joseph – an assisted living center that provides specialized rehabilitative care for patients with certain health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.

On Wednesday, Johnson says she showed to up to work with a cloth face mask that she made at home.

The managers, however, told her to take off the homemade mask or she would be sent home.

Johnson has now been placed unpaid leave, and she is worried about losing her job.

“After maybe four hours, management came up to me and asked me to remove it and we had some discussion about it,” Johnson said. “I told them then I was respectfully declining to remove my mask and she said she would talk to the administrator and then she called me into her office, gave me a list of reasons why I needed to remove it. I refused so they told me I had to go home.”

She says that all she wanted to do was ensure that everyone at Caretel is safe.

“It's not just to protect me,” Johnson said. “I want to protect everyone there. Caretel has an amazing staff, we have wonderful guests. This is more about stopping the spread of the pandemic.”

Caretel’s owner, Symphony Care Network, released a statement on the incident, saying in part: “While the use of homemade PPE [personal protective equipment], specifically facemasks, may in time become necessary, the use of this equipment carries risks that currently outweigh their beneficial and practical use. Homemade facemasks are easily contaminated [...] under no circumstances may they be worn into or beyond a medical setting.”


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josh 1 day ago
Thats crazyWe need protective face masks now


David 3 days ago
Why were they not provided masks to begin with? She made them because they were not giving them any to wear. This is a long term care facility right? Those patients are at the highest risk. If my loved one was there I would remove them immediately. Clearly this company does not care about their staff or their patients.

These "health care professionals" clearly are not caring about peoples health, nor are they professional. The world is in pandemic. Where the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions die. You run a facility with elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. Apparently you want them to die. If you have a loved one there I am sorry. Please get them out before something happens to them.

I hope everyone shares this. Do not trust trust these people with the life of your loved ones.
AmandaEvans 5 days ago
I visited a separate section of Accident and Emergency (I live in the UK) overnight with a non related virus condition, a large, very painful lump on my foot that I’d had for a couple of weeks. I am in an ‘at risk’ group, having four medical conditions- upper respiratory problems caused by vocal chord paralysis, diabetes, heart palpitations and high blood pressure. My husband is asthmatic. We wore medical grade fresh masks to protect ourselves and medical staff. We were told to remove them which we refused to do. My husband was sent out to sit in our car and I was left in a room for 3.5 hours. I was being victimised. The staff weren’t wearing masks or gloves and ambulance paramedics were bringing patients in again, wearing no protection. We have a 9 year old son and explained to staff that as we were in our early 50s and the risk was higher with age plus with our medical conditions, if we were to die from the virus our son would be orphaned. In the end, we left as it was evident that they wouldn’t treat me. I’ve only just been able to write this down as I am upset and angry to have been treated this way.
A 7 days ago
Last thing... People are making home masks for the inevitable of shortages in healthcare setting. Tracey is being proactive instead of reactive and that's exactly what our government has been trying to get across to people for a while now. There is no difference between using a homemade mask through the day, compared to using one disposable through the the whole day.
A 7 days ago
It's not about the patients being scared with people with masks on... If you don't get your flu shot then they make you wear a face mask for the whole flu season at that place . And those people who say shame on the employee... I ask you,....How can you shame someone who is standing up for what they believe, especially in this time when so much is unknown. I work with Tracey and she has a heart of gold. In no way shape or form is she doing this for attention. She is awesome at her job. No one needs to bad mouth a company or anybody...thats why people have reputations, they speak for themselves. The company said no health care settings allow face mask. It's weird.... In the hospitals, which last time I checked was a healthcare setting,.. They are allowing people to wear face masks.. But due to shortages staff must wear the same one through out the day....but that's just CDC recommendations. 😑 and if you could only see how many staff wear the face mask,...from the bottom of the totum pole to the top. They say a face mask won't protect but there are so many unknowns that some people feel safer, so I say let them feel safe. I think that whatever happens with Tracey will be for the best of her. This may all be a blessing in disguise because I feel her frustrations. It is a scary time, a time of the unknown, we all have many questions that cannot be answered....especially us, healthcare workers.
Roger 7 days ago
I imagine it would scare the patients, however the management needs to protect the patients as well as the employees. A New Jersey nursing home is presuming the entire facility has the
virus. How did it get started? Most likely someone who works there.
Nathan 8 days ago
This is disgusting !
How can you punish someone for trying to take care of themselves & being extra careful for those around them? This has nothing to do with if your a nurse, janitor, or a receptionist, etc....

This is so simple:
If there's a policy against homemade masks, then one must be provided, period!


Why can't the company accept the reality of our world today? It's not the same as last week, or the week before. Do they not know there's a pandemic already present in our community.
Funny how hospitals and clinics all over are asking people to make homemade masks, but then there's this story????

This should of been handled way better by the company, period!
Not that the employee couldn't have done better.


if employee is 'fame' searching, that's disgusting too, but there's plenty of reason to be upset at the business today.

& then someone is defending the managers/administrators actions????
I'm hoping this is fake news
AlondraJ 8 days ago
And don’t you find it ironic that in her original FB post she claims the employers reasons for not allowing her to wear her mask was because “it would scare our residents” but just days before this was posted by her? Really seems to me she was looking to post something that would generate a lot of attention to herself without disclosing important details that would discredit the validity of her “version of events” just like she did in your poorly executed “interview” The employers reply alone tells you why she was really sent home.
AlondraJ 8 days ago
Wow ABC way to go! You and employee should be ashamed of yourselves for making Caretel look bad to gain views and attention. The picture you used for this story was cropped out from her original FB post that clearly shows her wearing a name tag showing her official tittle as Ward Clerk/CNA and you are portraying her to be an “Assistant Nurse”? FYI a ward clerk usually works in an office setting and has little to no contact with patients. For her being a “concerned Healthcare worker” she seems to not be well versed on basic infection prevention and control. I can see why she was sent home if she was too stubborn to be educated by the leaders of the facility. Not a good look for an employee to bash her employer and then claim to be “afraid to loose her job.” And why don’t you reference the CDC recommendations on the use of these types of mask in healthcare settings instead of a “Study from Cambridge University.” I hope she enjoys her 15 minutes of fame cause I’m sure after they’re over she’ll be running back to you with a second story that will likely read “Healthcare worker fired for wearing PPE during COVID-19 pandemic” Way to inform the public ABC!
KathyDreher AlondraJ 8 days ago
A CNA is a Certified Nursing Assistant. You really want to whine about the phrase "assistant nurse"?!

You are the maiden of wrongness regarding "ward clerks", who, for YOUR information, have been called unit secretaries since the 1980s. You're so offended by the misnomer "assistant nurse" that you really should use the proper title for a unit secretary.

I was a unit secretary and there were countless times when I lent a hand with a patient. You are apparently unaware that because RNs, LPNs and CNAs are among the most over-worked people on the planet, in real life an all hands on deck approach is sometimes needed.
Signed, a former unit secretary who is annoyed by your rant.
David AlondraJ 3 days ago
This comment has been removed.
Stepfanie 8 days ago
You still have to follow polices and procedures and that's anywhere you work! Bad publicity for Caretel probably isn't the way to keep your job..
I worked there for almost 3 years and they always provided face masks.
KathyDreher Stepfanie 8 days ago
Even when you experienced an outbreak of corona virus, they always provided masks? Oh, wait...comparing then to now does not work, does it?
Stepfanie KathyDreher 7 days ago
Actually yes! I have many good friends that still work there. So maybe bite your tounge about things you do not know. Kathy.
Giuseppe 8 days ago
Did the employer provide a protective mask?
David Giuseppe 3 days ago
They did not. They said masks would scare the patients. Lol But all of them dying from a pandemic probably wont scare them at all.
MarvinZinn 8 days ago
I hope she can sue the county ten times what she would have earned with permission to tell anyone who made that stupid decision to SHUT UP!
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