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Person charged for trying to go to restaurant, gathering while under N.W.T. self-isolation order

The N.W.T. government has fined a person in what it calls a "troubling incident," for trying to attend a gathering while under a self-isolation order last week.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kami Kandola says she will name small communities if they can't contact trace

Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer of the N.W.T., reiterated for people to continue wearing non-medical masks, physically distance and respect public health orders in anticipation of a second wave of COVID-19. (Walter Strong/CBC)

The N.W.T. government has fined a person in what it calls a "troubling incident," for trying to attend a gathering while under a self-isolation order last week.

In a news release Wednesday afternoon, the government said the territory's enforcement task force issued a ticket on Aug. 13 in the North Slave region.

The individual had tried to attend a gathering and also a restaurant while they were required to self-isolate, states the release.

The government said there's no reason to believe the person, or anyone else, was exposed to COVID-19. 

"This type of non-compliance is particularly troubling," reads the news release. The government warns people to follow the rules around 14 days of self-isolation to reduce the risk of "causing a network of infections which could become very tough to control." 

The government says it's continuing to investigate reports of gatherings that don't follow public health orders.

"While we have issued warnings thus far, we will take additional enforcement actions if necessary," it states. "This is because in a pandemic, it's not just you who is affected by poor decisions. It is your friends, your families, and your communities."

In the government's latest numbers, there were 116 calls to the government's enforcement hotline in the past week. The government has handed out 13 tickets so far, and have given 208 verbal and written warnings.

Earlier this month, the territory handed out four fines  — which run $1,725 and includes a $225 victims of crime surcharge — to residents breaking self-isolation protocols, in what it called a "recent spate" in violations at the time.

Will name small communities: top doctor

As the territory prepares for a possible second wave of COVID-19, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer says her office will name a small community if a COVID-19 case is found there, but only in certain scenarios.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in the territory in March, Dr. Kami Kandola​​ has said for privacy reasons, the territorial government will not release the name of the community where someone tests positive for COVID-19, unless it's a larger centre like Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik or Fort Smith.

The community of Fort Resolution found out through a Facebook post in April, not health officials, that it had a confirmed case of COVID-19.

At a teleconference Wednesday, Kandola reiterated the dangers of stigmatizing someone suspected to have COVID-19. 

"The one scenario where we would name a [small] community ... is if we lost a string of exposure," said Kandola, giving the example of a hypothetical individual from a small community that travelled out of territory and tests positive for COVID-19, but didn't properly self-isolate and "had a number of exposures."

Kandola said this would apply if she couldn't get "a good sense" of the contacts that would be at risk.

"We would definitely advertise that case," she said, adding that the goal would be to protect the public and help contact trace.

But if an individual from a small community self-isolated and followed protocols, Kandola said she would stick to not naming the community for privacy reasons because "there's no additional harm." 

This has always been the exception, says spokesperson

This appears to be a shift in the government's messaging since the beginning of the pandemic. The government reiterated on several occasions that the public would not be informed of a case in a small community, and provided few details on potential exceptions to that.

In March, when questioned about that stance, the chief public health officer said it's something the Health Department will figure out when and if it is necessary.

In an email to CBC Thursday, COVID-19 response spokesperson Mike Westwick said this exception was always part of the government's policy.

He pointed to an excerpt of a press conference in April. In Kandola's introductory statement, speaking generally to "what happens when we get a positive test back," she explained if contact tracing can't be done, "we will reveal locations and dates publicly."

"This is the same approach followed in investigating cases of tuberculosis or other communicable diseases. It is not new," Westwick wrote in the email Thursday.

"There was never any change in stance."

Kandola also reminded residents on Wednesday to get tested, even if they have one of the several symptoms of COVID-19. She said her office has been observing trends in Southern Canada and the U.S., and highlighted that a majority of new cases are in young people.

In anticipation of a possible second wave, Kandola reiterated the importance of people continuing to wear non-medical masks, physically distance and respect public health orders.

"We anticipate there will [be] travel-related cases as the weeks go on," she said, noting the steady increase in self-isolation plans submitted to the N.W.T. government.

"We will get more COVID-19 cases. It is inevitable."

As of Tuesday when the government's website was last updated, there are five confirmed cases in the territory which have all recovered, 3667 tests completed, and 95 tests pending results.

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