Traveling nurse who works with COVID-19 patients turned away from Fresno hotel

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the need for healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID 19 crisis increases, traveling nurses like Artresha Cassell are bringing relief.

"It's fulfilling work. I became a nurse because I wanted to help other people," she says.

The RN from Atlanta spent March to June working the frontlines of one of the largest hospitals in New York, before going home.

"Because people were staying at home all over the country, needs were low. Then people started getting out when 'stay at home' orders were lifted and cases started booming everywhere."

Cassell jumped at the opportunity to work in Fresno after getting the call from American Mobile.

RELATED: Too many patients, not enough staff at many Fresno County hospitals after huge spike in COVID-19 cases

Arriving with her children at 9:30 at night, she called the Marriott 800 number to book a stay.

She says, "I told them, 'I'm working at a hospital in the area, do you have discounts for hospital workers?' They said yes they do. They asked me a couple of questions, got my reservation booked."

Artresha and her children were booked for a three-night stay at the Residence Inn in Fresno at the "community caregiver rate." But when she showed her credentials that qualify her for the discounted rate, she was stunned when she was turned away.

"Immediately my jaw dropped and I said, 'Well the reason that I got a special rate is because I'm here to work at a hospital with COVID patients'. She said, 'We opted out of that program, we don't want people here that are working directly with COVID patients.' But that's not what they said when I made the reservation on the phone," she says.

Artresha spent the week working in the ICU while apartment-hunting for month-to-month leases out of concern the hotel she later stayed at would have the same reaction.

"You go into survival mode especially when you have your family with you, your kids with you," she said.

She filed a claim with Marriott about her encounter after finding an apartment and is awaiting a response.

We reached out to the Residence Inn, Fresno, several times and were told management wouldn't be available to comment until next week. However, their website does note that customers should review government guidance to confirm eligibility to travel & stay at the hotel.

Our emails to the corporate media relations team went unanswered.

Cassell says, "strangers will say thank you, so I was really surprised to receive that negative reaction as to the reason I was here."

Inspired by the nurses that cared for her grandmother before she passed, the nurse of 15 years says she isn't going to let this encounter take away from the opportunity to help others.

This comes as Fresno County is calling on trained medical personnel to help meet potential staffing needs across our healthcare system.
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