Nurse says she regrets going to packed Wisconsin bar without mask

Katie Koutsky, a nurse with the Downers Grove-based Advocate Aurora Health system, says she was helping her sister reopen her suburban Milwaukee bar Wednesday evening when the news crew approached her.

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Nurse Katie Koutsky was interviewed by a news crew from a Milwaukee TV station at this bar in West Allis, Wisc., after the state’s stay-at-home order was lifted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Nurse Katie Koutsky was interviewed by a news crew from a Milwaukee TV station at this bar in West Allis, Wisc., after the state’s stay-at-home order was lifted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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A nurse says she regrets not taking better safety precautions after she was criticized this week for appearing without a mask in a local television interview at a packed Wisconsin bar.

Katie Koutsky, a nurse with the Downers Grove-based Advocate Aurora Health system, says she was helping her sister reopen her suburban Milwaukee bar Wednesday evening when the news crew approached her.

“I have a toddler at home and I’m a full-time nurse, so it’s been very stressful and hard to not be able to go out and be with my friends and family at the bars,” Koutsky said in an interview aired by Milwaukee station WTMJ-TV.

Asked if she was worried about getting the virus from being in a bar without social distancing, she said, “No, I don’t think that the risk presents any higher than me going to a grocery store.”

Her sister’s bar was among several that immediately opened for business hours after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the state’s “Safer at Home” order.

Koutsky said Friday she was releasing a statement because of 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.”

“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,” Koutsky said Friday in a statement released by Advocate Aurora Health.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Koutsky said she doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms and has no indication she was exposed to the virus, but “out of an abundance of caution” will voluntarily self-quarantine for the next week and will undergo routine screening before she returns to work.

Advocate Aurora Health said in a statement it was “disappointed” in Koutsky’s decision not to wear a mask in a bar that wasn’t practicing social distancing.

“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,” the health system said.

Mary Beth Kingston, the Chief Nursing Officer at Advocate Aurora Health, was asked about Koutsky’s interview during a Facebook Live town hall Thursday morning.

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

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