Registered nurse could face discipline after refusing COVID-19 testing, quarantine at Toronto airport

·4 min read
Toronto registered nurse Jessica Faraone appeared maskless at Toronto's Pearson airport after coming back from an international trip. She refused to take a COVID-19 test and\ to quarantine in a hotel — actions the Public Health Agency of Canada says could lead to a fine of up to $750,000 or six months in jail. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Toronto registered nurse Jessica Faraone appeared maskless at Toronto's Pearson airport after coming back from an international trip. She refused to take a COVID-19 test and\ to quarantine in a hotel — actions the Public Health Agency of Canada says could lead to a fine of up to $750,000 or six months in jail. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

A registered nurse who openly refused to comply with quarantine rules and other mandated COVID-19 safety requirements after returning from an international trip at a Toronto airport could face disciplinary action by the body that regulates nurses in Ontario.

In a series of videos posted to her social media account from Pearson International Airport on Thursday, Toronto registered nurse Jessica Faraone appears maskless and says she refused to take a COVID-19 test as well as to quarantine in a hotel.

Both of these regulations were made mandatory for air travellers returning to Canada from outside the country on Feb.1 and Feb. 21, respectively.

In one of the videos, an airport official can be heard telling Faraone that while she's entitled to her opinion, she must respect others by complying with the public health guidelines, to which Faraone replies she's a registered nurse.

"I'm a front-line worker," she can be heard saying. "Actually, I'm considered a hero."

Jessica Faraone is pictured here second from the left in Arusha, Tanzania. She says she worked at a public hospital there for five weeks and arrived back at Toronto's Pearson airport on Thursday.
Jessica Faraone is pictured here second from the left in Arusha, Tanzania. She says she worked at a public hospital there for five weeks and arrived back at Toronto's Pearson airport on Thursday. (GoFundMe)

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Faraone said she had gone to Arusha, Tanzania to volunteer as a nurse at a hospital for five weeks.

When she returned on Thursday, she said she refused to comply with the public health guidelines because they are "100 per cent against our Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

She also said when the pandemic began, she decided to work in long-term care homes that were hard hit by the virus. It is not clear whether she will be returning to long-term care homes by her own volition or if she'll even be allowed to.

Anti-masking statements grounds for discipline: CNO

The province's nursing regulatory body, the College of Nurses of Ontario, says it is aware of the videos posted online and according to the conditions outlined on their website, Faraone could face disciplinary action.

When nurses communicate with the public and identify themselves as nurses, they are accountable to the CNO and the public it protects, the regulatory body says. And that applies to public health measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

"Nurses have a professional responsibility to not publicly communicate anti-vaccination, anti-masking and anti-distancing statements that contradict the available scientific evidence. Doing so may result in an investigation by CNO, and disciplinary proceedings when warranted."

On multiple videos in her series, Faraone tagged the Instagram account of Chris Saccoccia, also known as "Chris Sky," an anti-masker who has consistently rallied against health measures meant to keep people safe during the pandemic. His social media posts are rife with conspiracy theories and misinformation.

"I got the courage to stand up for myself by watching Chris Sky stand up for his own rights at the airport. This made me dive deeper into actually learning and studying the Charter of Rights," Faraone said.

RNAO calls behaviour offensive, unprofessional

Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, say Faraone displayed "offensive behaviours that are unprofessional and that contravene public health measures."

"To have this video surfacing on social media at the same time thousands and thousands of RNs, RPNs, NPs and other health professionals are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week protecting Ontarians and trying to save lives is unfathomable," Grinspun said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

Grinspun added that if Faraone is a practising nurse in Ontario, the CNO should deal with this matter "as they are obligated to do."

Having any health professional acting in this way compromises the collective effort to mitigate the damage caused by COVID-19, she said, and she urges the public to continue following public health measures advised by the province.

Violators of Quarantine Act could face $750K fine: PHAC

In a statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told CBC News it is aware of Faraone's conduct and it is looking into the incident.

Although the PHAC couldn't provide additional details of the case citing privacy concerns, it said travellers are legally obligated to follow the instructions of a screening officer or quarantine officer on testing and mandatory hotel quarantining.

"Violating any instructions provided to you when you entered Canada is an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to up to six months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines," the agency said.

"It's a very difficult situation when that happens but I think we have the right people and the right professionals to manage through it accordingly," said Dwayne Macintosh, the director of safety and security for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, referring to the conduct of Faraone and passengers like her.

"There are rules that we all have to follow and we are following the guidance that is provided to us by the Public Health Agency of Canada."