Province quietly withdraws public health fine against Manitoba man accused of violating isolation order

The province has quietly withdrawn a fine against a Manitoba man accused of not self-isolating while sick with COVID-19, after it says it got new information about his case.

'Additional evidence' led to Curtis Rodgers’ $486 ticket being scrapped on Friday, province says

Curtis Rodgers (pictured here with his wife, Betty Rodgers) got a $486 ticket earlier this month for not self-isolating while sick with COVID-19. On Friday, that ticket was withdrawn. (Submitted by Hayden Rooks)

The province has quietly withdrawn a fine against a Manitoba man accused of not self-isolating while sick with COVID-19, after it says it got new information about his case.

Curtis Rodgers was on the highway on Friday when he had to pull over to answer the call from a public health official, telling him the $486 ticket against him had been scrapped.

"'Just take [the ticket],' she said, 'and tear it up and throw in the garbage,'" the 62-year-old truck driver said on Sunday, recalling the conversation.

Rodgers said he was told the information that led to his getting a ticket ended up being false, but he didn't get many other details.

"The information that she got was false, the dates [were] wrong and everything," he said.

A spokesperson for the province on Sunday said since the ticket in the Prairie Mountain Health region was issued, "additional evidence became available" that led to it being withdrawn.

The spokesperson said they could not elaborate on what that evidence included.

The news came more than a week after public health officials marched up to Rodgers' door in Minitonas, Man., about 370 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, to issue the fine. 

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced the ticket had been issued at his regular news conference later that week, when he said there was "very clear information" the person fined had not been self-isolating.

"Like almost everything we do in public health, there's attempts to try to rectify that before leading to this. But ultimately, the fine had to be levied," Roussin said on Sept. 3.

It was the first time the province used new powers that allow it to immediately punish anyone breaking self-isolation rules with a nearly $500 ticket, since introducing the new public health orders at the end of August.

Positive test result

Rodgers said he went for a drive-thru COVID-19 test on Aug. 19, after developing symptoms following a work trip to Vancouver. 

He stopped to run an errand on the way back — his one error, he said — not understanding the test site employee's instructions to go straight home, which were muffled through layers of personal protective equipment.

Rodgers got a positive result four days later, on Aug. 23.

But after getting home from the test, Rodgers said, he didn't leave home until he got the green light from public health that he had recovered — so he was "shaken" when public health officials and police showed up at his door on Sept. 2 to issue the fine, as neighbours and passersby looked on.

"I really felt ashamed, because people [were] walking up the street and traffic was going by," he said. "There was lots of talk after that."

His daughter's family was also confused about why they were told to self-isolate a day earlier, then told they were free to leave their house the next afternoon.

"[I] basically spent all my time during that isolation just reaching out to whoever I could, to try to gather information," said Hayden Rooks, Rodgers' son-in-law. "And there was a flat refusal by anybody to tell me when I was exposed to COVID or what the situations were." 

Left in the dark

The provincial spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases, citing privacy reasons.

Rodgers said he and his family have been following COVID-19 rules and recommendations — wearing masks, postponing birthday parties — and feel they've been left in the dark about why they were reprimanded by the province.

"It's still big-time on my mind. We still talk about it, what was this and what they did this for. And then there's shame," he said.

"I go in town there now and there's people really running away from me, because everybody knows, everybody knows about this in town."

Hayden Rooks (pictured here with his wife, Charlene Rooks, and their three children) says he couldn't get answers from public health officials as to why his family was told to self-isolate, then told they were free to leave their home the next day. (Submitted by Hayden Rooks)

Roussin said at a Monday news conference public health officials endeavour to be measured when enforcing public health orders and go with an education-first mandate.

"The more we deal with things like fines, the more we deal with releasing specific information that may deter people from getting tested," he said.

"That's going to decrease our ability to manage the pandemic. So certainly we have to have the ability to enforce things. It should not be our first step. And certainly my expectation is that we be quite sure that it's required given the circumstances."

Though Rodgers is now off the hook for the ticket, Rooks said they plan to follow through with a complaint to the Prairie Mountain Health region to get to the bottom of what happened and why.

"This is a lot bigger issue than just the ticket," he said. "We absolutely do want Prairie Mountain to take a look, seriously, at a complaint and potentially have a good impact on their system so that they cannot do something like this to anyone else ever again."


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