The nurse has since apologized and said her actions were a "lapse in judgment"

By Rachel DeSantis
May 18, 2020
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A nurse who gave a television interview in a crowded Wisconsin bar without practicing social distancing and without wearing a mask has apologized for a “lapse in judgment” after her hospital expressed disappointment in her actions.

Last week, nurse Katie Koutsky was among the bar-goers at Limanski’s Pub in West Allis, which re-opened its doors after the state’s stay-at-home order was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The pub was among several highlighted in an article published by NBC affiliate WTMJ – and in the accompanying video, Koutsky was filmed sitting close to fellow patrons, none of whom were wearing masks.

“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 bar,” she told the outlet.

She also said that she was not so worried about the situation, as she didn’t think “the risk presents any higher than going to a grocery store.”

Her employer, Advocate Aurora Health, felt differently, however, and told PEOPLE in a statement that it was “disappointed” in Koutsky’s actions considering the safety measures the hospital has been taking to keep its staffers safe.

“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,” the Illinois-based Advocate said. “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.”

Koutsky, meanwhile, later issued a statement of her own to PEOPLE via Advocate after receiving “intense media scrutiny” following the interview.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Koutsky continued, saying that she “let her guard down” during the outing, and would be self-quarantining for the next seven days out of an abundance of caution.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order was supposed to have been extended until at least May 26, but was struck down last week by the conservative-majority Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Evers, a Democrat, has since warned that the decision to reopen businesses could come with devastating results.

“Folks, deadly viruses don’t go away on their own and they don’t go away because the Supreme Court says so,” he said Thursday, according to The New York Times.

As of Monday afternoon, Wisconsin has seen at least 12,571 cases and 453 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to the Times. There have been at least 1.4 million cases and 89,504 deaths in the U.S.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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