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

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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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