'I...refused to stay in a hotel because I’m a Canadian citizen': Nurse draws ire after refusing COVID-19 test, quarantine at Toronto Pearson International airport

'I...refused to stay in a hotel because I’m a Canadian citizen': Nurse draws ire after refusing COVID-19 test, quarantine at Toronto Pearson International airport

An Ontario registered nurse, Jess Faraone, is drawing the ire of the internet after posting a video of herself arriving at Toronto's Pearson International Airport in which she refuses to wear a mask, quarantine at a hotel or take a COVID-19 test.

“I have refused to stay in a hotel because I’m a Canadian citizen, I’m refusing to do the COVID test because I’m a Canadian citizen,” said Faraone in an Instagram story video on her profile.

Anyone returning to Canada from a foreign country - in Faraone’s case Tanzania - is required to follow a 14-day mandatory quarantine, and is supposed to report to a hotel for a 3-day mandatory stay. The hotel rule was installed to limit the spread of COVID-19 variants, and anyone who violates the penalties could be subjected to a fine up to $750,000 or imprisonment for six months.

“My dispute has been wearing a mask outside, in the general public, like malls, grocery stores, coffee shops, anywhere else other than a hospital or some sort of medical facility where you need to wear a mask,” she said.

In the videos, Faraone is heard arguing with what sounds like a Canadian Border Services Agency officer or security personnel. In follow-up videos, she has said that officers and medical personnel on hand tried to “shame her” insisting that her medical background means she should know better.

“I’m a frontline hero, I’m considered a hero,” Faroane is heard telling the officer. She said CBSA told her that she would be sent a ticket in the mail, but when Yahoo News Canada recached out to the CBSA, they said it's the Public Health Agency and local police's jurisdiction to issue a fine.

Former employers respond to nurse's actions

According to the College of Nurses of Ontario, Faroane’s still listed as an employee of Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute, but in her video she confirms she is no longer an employee. In an emailed response to Yahoo News Canada, Faraone’s former employer, the Toronto Cosmetic Surgery Institute said “what she did is wrong” and “her recent actions and opinions do not represent our clinic.” The College has not yet responded to a request for a comment.

Faraone is noted to have also worked at Pine Grove Lodge, a long-term care home in Woodbridge, Ont. In November 2020, the nursing home suffered a serious outbreak with 72 patients and 37 staff being infected with COVID-19.

“I’ve worked in several nursing homes,” said Faraone. “I love working with old people."

In following videos, Faraone clarifies her stance on masks indicating they should be only used in medical settings. She also added that she doesn’t approve of kids being “forced to wear masks”.

“I never said that I’m a nurse who doesn’t believe in wearing PPE in the hospital or working with sick people. I completely agree with wearing PPE while working,” said Faraone.

“I think it’s hilarious that people are changing the narrative to fit what they want to hear,” said Faraone through Instagram stories, indicating that the media would somehow spin her story.

Readers react with praise, anger over Faraone's refusal

While Faraone's actions left some divided — while many readers were upset, some praised the nurse for standing up for her rights and expressing her freedoms.

Yahoo News Canada has reached out to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for comment, and why there was no immediate recourse. The public body said they are aware of situation and looking into it.

"Travellers are legally obligated to follow the instructions of a Screening Officer or Quarantine Officer through the 14-day period, whether in regards to testing, transit to locations, their mandatory hotel stopover or during quarantine at home or other suitable location. If they do not follow the instructions, there are penalties including a maximum fine of up to $750,000 or imprisonment for six months. All travellers legally obligated to follow the 14-day period quarantine will be subject to compliance," wrote a PHAC spokesperson in an email.