MLA consistently changed timeline of isolation whereabouts, public health staff says

Tu Nedhé - Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn’s timeline of events during his 14-day isolation changed from one consultation to the next, according to the head of COVID-19 contact tracing in Yellowknife.

Head of contact tracing investigation team says Norn changed timeline of events from one call to the next

The public hearing into Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn's alleged breach of conduct continued Wednesday. It will reconvene Thursday with Norn's testimony. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Stephanie Gilbert, the COVID-19 Outbreak Clinical Coordinator for the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, estimates she's handled about 600 COVID-19 contact tracing investigations in Yellowknife. 

MLA Steve Norn's is among the most complicated, she said. 

Gilbert testified on day three of Norn's public inquiry into his alleged breach of the Legislative Assembly's code of conduct. The inquiry is looking into whether or not Norn broke his mandatory self-isolation period and made inaccurate statements to the press about it. 

What made Norn's contact tracing case so difficult, Gilbert said, was that Norn's timeline of events would change from consultation to consultation. 

"What was complicated about it, was the fact that we had to revisit multiple times where we had to call and clarify parts of the investigation and land on an accurate timeline," she said.

Establishing a timeline

Gilbert's department first made contact with Norn on Apr. 21, after the MLA had tested positive for COVID-19. On that call, Gilbert said Norn denied that he had contact with any other Yellowknife resident, except for one household member with whom he was isolating. 

He said he remained at home as instructed and had no visitors.

Since Norn had identified himself to the public as having tested positive, public health then received "numerous phone calls" from members of the public identifying themselves as possible contacts, according to Gilbert.

An epidemiologist subsequently became involved to assist in the investigation because public health staff felt they "weren't getting a true sense of the risk involved and we therefore couldn't make good decisions to the public about who was involved," Gilbert told Shawna Sparrow, counsel to the sole adjudicator, in Wednesday's hearing. 

After a follow-up call with the epidemiologist and another nurse from public health, Norn disclosed that he had visited the Yellowknife Racquet Club on April 19, the day after his mandatory isolation period had completed. 

After the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer notified Gilbert and her team that there was video footage of Norn at the racquet club on April 18, Gilbert's department followed up with Norn. Once prompted, Norn admitted he was at the racquet club on April 18, his final day of isolation. 

In a call on April 22, he told public health staff that he delivered a parcel to a friend on April 19. The recipient of that parcel called public health to indicate she had been in contact with Norn on the afternoon of April 18, though she said the encounter was mostly contactless.

She also testified to the encounter in Wednesday's hearing, confirming that Norn dropped off the package on April 18. 

Initially, Gilbert said Norn did not share any information indicating he visited the Legislative Assembly during the time he was supposed to be isolating. 

After being re-interviewed, Norn admitted he did go to the Legislative Assembly though he claimed his visit was on April 18. Public health later learned that Norn was in fact at the Legislature on April 17.   

"If somebody isn't able to give us an accurate account, it puts others at risk," Gilbert said. 

"It means we're losing time in terms of notifying contacts and every contact who's out there and doesn't know has the potential to expose others ... I would say Mr. Norn didn't share information unless specifically asked about that information." 

Gilbert said that case investigations typically take an hour or so. 

In Norn's case, the investigation took "several days and multiple resources."

The public hearing continues Thursday with Norn's testimony at 9:30 a.m.

The proceedings are being broadcast on the legislature's website