Breaking COVID-19 rules comes with consequences, says N.W.T. Premier

·3 min read
N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane said there will be consequences for those who get caught breaking COVID-19 public health orders. She also urged people to show compassion and kindness to those who have the disease. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane said there will be consequences for those who get caught breaking COVID-19 public health orders. She also urged people to show compassion and kindness to those who have the disease. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Premier Caroline Cochrane says there are no excuses for breaking COVID-19 public health orders, as a cluster of cases in the city of Yellowknife continues to grow.

"I want to be clear that there are consequences when people don't follow [the rules]" she said in a statement Sunday.

The comments come amid a controversy surrounding Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, who identified himself as one of the cases and who, by Sunday, had been linked to a cluster of four other cases and 90 contacts.

Norn said a family member had also tested positive for the virus in a statement late Thursday night. He said he had travelled to Alberta for a family emergency by car, filed a self-isolation plan as required, and returned on April 4.

Citing unnamed sources at the Legislative Assembly, on Friday, Cabin Radio reported that Norn broke his isolation period to enter the N.W.T.'s legislature on Saturday, April 17, a full day before he told the news outlet his isolation period was supposed to end.

CBC News has not confirmed these allegations.

Norn declined CBC's request for an interview Friday, and did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.

Legislature, public health, not releasing info

A CBC reporter attended the legislature building on Friday. They were told the visitor log book was not accessible to the public and a search warrant would be needed in order to see it.

Nicole Bonnell, manager of public affairs and communications at the legislative assembly, also said in an email the log book was not available for review and was used for security purposes.

The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, meanwhile, acknowledged there is public interest in its investigations but says it will not confirm whether Norn broke his isolation period.

"We know that residents are concerned about allegations of individuals posing a risk to others by not following the rules," said spokesperson Darren Campbell, in an email.

"We are not able to comment on any potential investigations nor share any personal health information, including details of self-isolation plans," he said, citing the Public Health Act.

"If a high-profile member of the public has made statements on his or her accord, we will not be confirming any details."

Practice compassion

Premier Cochrane said the past few days have been a "stark reminder" of how quickly the pandemic situation in the territory can change if people let their guards down.

Ninety people had been identified as contacts of the cluster of cases.

One of the cases was linked to École St Patrick High School. Exposure notices were issued for patrons at the Taste of Saigon Restaurant and to those who attended a bonfire at the Yellowknife sandpits last weekend.

The Yellowknife Racquet Club also announced on Facebook that a person with COVID-19 had been inside their facility, saying that all contacts had been identified, contacted, and were isolating.

"This is a situation that we hoped we would be able to avoid," said Cochrane. "It's important during these moments that we practice compassion, kindness and express empathy, especially for those who have COVID-19."

She also said the situation is a reminder that people should continue to get vaccinated.