Norn’s ‘complicated’ contact tracing case revealed during investigation
A public health nurse said a contact tracing investigation linked to Tu NedhÃ©-Wiilideh MP Steve Norn in April was “complicated” because he kept changing his story.
Stephanie Gilbert, clinical coordinator of the Covid epidemic for the NWT Health and Social Services Authority, testified Wednesday during the third day of a public inquiry into whether Norn violated the MPs code of conduct by allegedly breaking the ‘compulsory self-isolation and’ misleading the public ‘. on his actions.
Gilbert said she had been involved in around 600 Covid-19 contact tracing investigations, but Norn’s “stood out” because it was “much longer, more complicated and certainly stressful and difficult at times.” While most cases typically end within an hour, Gilbert said public health officials had to interview Norn several times over several days to get an accurate timeline of where he was since returning to the NWT on April 4, after his trip to Alberta.
According to Norn’s file, when he tested positive for Covid-19 on April 21, Norn initially told public health that he had not been in contact with anyone outside of his home during his period of isolation between April 4 and 18.
Gilbert said that public health then began receiving “numerous phone calls” from members of the public who identified themselves as potential contacts, claiming that Norn had called or texted them or that they had read articles from the public. press indicating that Norn was positive for Covid-19. At this point, an epidemiologist became involved in the investigation, which Gilbert says only happens in the most difficult cases.
“We have a duty to investigate these things for the sake of public safety,” Gilbert explained.
“We didn’t have a real idea of ââthe risk involved and so we couldn’t make good decisions to the public about who was exposed or not.”
Among those who contacted public health was SuEllen Dillabough, a child welfare worker and longtime friend of Norn who testified to seeing him briefly in the afternoon of April 18, when he left a package for his daughter. She said she had been tested for Covid-19 four times, each of which came back negative.
In subsequent interviews with public health, Norn said he saw his daughter – who was in separate isolation – briefly on April 8 and 17. He also said he visited the Legislature on April 18 and the Yellowknife Racquet Club on April 19.
However, Deputy Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Glen Rutland contacted public health to inform them that Norn had indeed visited the assembly building on April 17. in a sheet and video footage purported to show Norn’s arrival.
Gilbert said the office of the chief public health officer also contacted public health to say that video footage showed Norn was at the Yellowknife Racquet Club on April 18, not April 19.
In response to questions from Norn’s attorney – Steven Cooper – Gilbert said that a one-day difference may not seem like a big difference in most cases, but when it comes to exposure risk to a “fatal disease” is important.
âWhen we talk about Covid and the incubation period and the contagious period of this disease, a few days make the difference. This means we are wasting time in terms of contact notification and every contact who doesn’t know they’ve been exposed has the potential to expose others, âshe said.
“If someone is not able to give us an accurate history and an accurate account of their activities, it puts others at risk.”
Gilbert added that members of the public who were later informed that they may have been exposed to Covid-19 were upset that they had not been informed sooner and that there was a “significant list of contacts” at the Racquet Club.
Clarity on Covid rules questioned
Several witnesses who testified at Wednesday’s public hearing said there was confusion over self-isolation rules in the Northwest Territories.
Trisha Smith, who traveled to Alberta with Norn in April and was living with him at the time, said she believed their period of self-isolation ended on April 18, after receiving a phone call from Statistics Canada symptom check. She said she was not worried when Norn left their home for the Racquet Club that afternoon as they had received this call and were not symptomatic.
The investigation learned that a letter informing Smith and Norn of their period of isolation, however, indicated that they were to self-isolate from April 4 to April 18 inclusive.
On Tuesday, Dennis Marchiori, director of compliance and enforcement operations for the Covid-19 secretariat, testified on the calculation of the 14-day isolation period. He said the first day does not begin until the day after the travelers return to the territory.
Despite clarification of questions from single judge Ronald Barclay and confusion from Norn’s lawyer Ronald Halabi, Marchiori insisted the rules are “pretty clear” in letters sent to those in isolation. .
Natasha Schwindt, Norn’s former partner, who was self-isolating in April after their daughter returned from a trip to British Columbia to visit her family, also testified on Wednesday. She expressed frustration with the public health communication and said that after testing positive for Covid-19, she was not asked any contact tracing questions while her then partner Norn and Smith were.
âIt’s a very frustrating system. There is a lot of misinformation or miscommunication from every public health nurse who calls you. You get a different one every day and they give you different information, âshe said.
Norn faces a misconduct complaint from his fellow MPs. Yellowknife North MP Rylund Johnson filed the complaint on behalf of the caucus with the Integrity Commissioner of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories in May, after allegations that Norn had broken the auto- isolation have been made public.
In June, Commissioner David Phillip Jones recommended that the complaint be heard by public inquiry before a sole arbitrator.
The hearing is scheduled to resume Thursday at 9:30 a.m., when Norn is scheduled to testify.