What was supposed to be about a week-long trip from Łutsel K'e to Yellowknife turned into a financial nightmare for one man after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Patrick Enzoe said he was refused access to an isolation centre in the territory's capital because he only tested positive on a rapid test. He said he tried going to the Yellowknife testing centre for a clinic-administered PCR test to confirm the results but was turned away because he was considered a positive case.
As a result, Enzoe says he's paid $1,750 out of pocket to stay at a hotel in Yellowknife.
Enzoe flew to the city on Dec. 31 to do some shopping and visit friends and family with his girlfriend.
They were scheduled to return on Jan. 7, but Enzoe wasn't feeling well the day before, so he said went to the testing clinic where he used a rapid test that came back positive.
He called 811 — the territorial government's COVID-19 information and services line — which he said turned into a game of telephone tag with various public health providers, and resulted in few answers.
"We have like a whole book of phone numbers they keep giving us," he said.
Unable to find accommodation in an isolation centre, Enzoe booked a room at the Stanton Suites Hotel until Jan. 16.
Enzoe works for the Łutsel K'e Dene First Nation, and said the band office has agreed to cover the cost but he'll have to reimburse it by having his pay docked.
Enzoe said what was supposed to be a nice holiday trip will now end up costing him over $3,000.
He said he has been waiting days for a follow-up call from public health to give him instructions.
In an email, a spokesperson for the COVID Secretariat said he could not comment on individual situations, but said Omicron has complicated the situation for individuals infected with COVID-19.
"Given the increased transmissibility of Omicron, traveller self-isolation accommodations (set up at hotels) are no longer available for individuals that have tested positive for a COVID-19 infection," he said. "It is recommended that individuals isolate in place either at home or where they are staying when they test positive for a COVID-19 infection."
The government is offering isolation centres in regional hubs for those who are medically advised to self-isolate and who are unable to safely do so in their own home, or at the place where they are staying. The spokesperson added that public health would only follow up with individuals deemed at high risk of severe outcome, or if "there are other factors that indicate the need for more testing or a public health follow up."
Enzoe is at least the second person from an N.W.T. community finding themselves trapped in Yellowknife in an unsuitable situation.
Conrad Baetz, a director for the COVID-19 Secretariat, said in a press conference Wednesday that it is important for people from communities to isolate in place when they test positive.
He said the secretariat is doing its best to address the needs of community members who are isolating, but didn't offer any details on how.
For Enzoe, he said the isolation has left him with time to think, and his thoughts often turn to the stress of his financial loss.
"I feel like I'm losing out on everything that I worked so hard for," he said.