The COVID-19 Secretariat won’t confirm if an investigation into the alleged violations of self-isolation rules by Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn is in the works.
A report by Cabin Radio on April 23 stated that Norn, who tested positive for COVID-19 on April 21, had entered the assembly building on April 17, one day before his isolation period was scheduled to end. As a result, one security guard was said to be isolating.
Norn said in a statement on April 23 that he tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a trip to Alberta. A member of his family also tested positive.
Four more cases of COVID-19 were reported in Yellowknife over the weekend. Three were announced on April 23, with one connected to international travel and two from domestic travel and from the same household. The fourth is connected to a previously reported case, said chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola on April 25.
An official at the legislative assembly offered no comment on April 23 regarding questions that Norn entered the assembly building when he was supposed to be self-isolating.
Assembly spokesperson Nicole Bonnell said the legislative assembly has an exposure control plan and “works closely with the Department of Health and Social Services to ensure appropriate communication measures are met.”
But she didn’t respond to inquiries as to whether Norn had been inside the building on April 17, who he interacted with or whether anyone is currently self-isolating after his visit.
“The assembly will not comment further,” she said.
Building access limited
An NNSL Media reporter who asked to see entries for April 17 in the assembly log book was refused by a security guard, who also stood in the doorway of the second set of doors of the building blocking his access.
Bonnell said the log book is not available for review and that the assembly building has been closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Media are provided access to the public gallery when the assembly is in session, she said.
“To maximize the health and safety of all members and staff during the pandemic, we have been limiting building access to essential staff/personnel only. Media would not otherwise be granted access to the building outside of session unless they had a meeting arranged or there was media availability scheduled,” she added.
Another report by Cabin Radio stated that a contact of Norn or his family member had been identified at the Racquet Club on April 18.
Asked if there would be an investigation of Norn for allegedly going out in public during his self-isolation period, COVID-19 Secretariat spokesperson Darren Campbell said he couldn’t say if an investigation would start “until it becomes part of the court process.”
“Doing so would hinder a potential investigation and/or breach privacy restrictions under the Public Health Act,” he said.
All complaints received by ProtectNWT are investigated, he added, and people wanting to make complaints are asked to call 811 in the NWT. Operators take complaints daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Campbell didn’t address questions about whether a member of Norn’s family had attended a party with students from St. Patrick and Sir John Franklin high schools on April 17.
A principal from one of those schools was contacted but couldn’t comment officially on the party.
Kandola confirmed on April 24 that 40 contacts were identified after an individual with COVID-19 attended St. Patrick’s on April 19, though no viral transmission was found at the school.
She also identified the sand pits as an area for risk exposure, saying that on April 16, between 9:30 p.m. and midnight and April 17 from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., there was a bonfire and gathering held there. Everyone who was there during those times were ordered by Kandola to self-isolate immediately for 14 days.
Investigations of health order violations
In a statement on April 25, Premier Caroline Cochrane said there is no excuse for not following health orders and that there are “consequences” when people don’t follow them. She did not elaborate further.
Violations of public health orders can carry charges and fines of more than $5,000.
Compliance and Enforcement staff with the COVID-19 Secretariat have conducted 5,135 investigations into suspected violations to date, according to the latest COVID Statistics report, issued on April 21 from the Secretariat.
Of those investigations, 892 verbal and written warnings have been issued and 47 summary offense tickets given out for failure to self-isolate or follow a public health order. Each ticket brings a fine of $1,725.
One ticket for $500 was given for knowingly providing false information to a public health officer.
The Monkey Tree Pub is the only business to be ticketed for non-compliance of health orders and was charged $5,175 in December 2020. The pub is contesting the charge in court and is being represented by an Ontario lawyer who has worked with Rebel News Media in COVID-19-related cases.
Efforts to contact Norn for comment on this story were not successful.