Norfield detained after breaching COVID-19 self-isolation orders, inquest hears
The first day of testimony at an inquest in Prince Albert provided a glimpse at the events that led to the death of a man at the Victoria Hospital nearly three years ago.
Jordan Norfield, 30, died on Dec. 5, 2020 – four days after he was initially taken into custody by the Prince Albert Police Service. On Monday, the inquest heard that Norfield wasn’t complying with self-isolation orders after testing positive for COVID-19.
Sgt. Curtis Bradbury walked the chief coroner, counsel and jury through video clips of Norfield while he was held in the detention cells overnight from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2.
Police led Norfield into his cell around 7 p.m. He was wearing black clothing, a disposable face mask and a blue, striped toque.
“When he comes in, he’s perfectly fine,” said Bradbury.
For the first half of the night, Norfield appeared normal, aside from drinking excessive amounts of water, vomiting, and using the toilet. After taking several sips from the tap, Norfield was given a 4 oz cup and drank out of it nearly 130 times, according to Bradbury.
Around 2 a.m., Bradbury explained, is when Norfield “started becoming disorientated.”
Norfield was struggling to balance, was visibly shaking, and began using two hands to drink from the cup.
“At times, he is talking to himself,” said Bradbury. “He’s pretty unbalanced, unsteady.”
At one point, Norfield holds the cup up to his ear, as if it were a phone, and appears to be talking to himself.
Shortly before 3 a.m., Bradbury said the guards noticed that Norfield was in medical distress and hit an alarm for assistance. At this point, Norfield was unable to stand up and started “convulsing,” as Bradbury described.
The video showed Norfield falling head first into the wall above the bed. Then, while on the toilet at about 5:30 a.m., Bradbury said Norfield’s body “locks out” and he falls on to the floor, hitting his head again on the wall. Bradbury noted blood on the wall beside the toilet and along the edge of the bed.
“He ended up striking all three walls with his head,” he said.
Norfield remained on his stomach on the floor until paramedics arrived around 9 a.m.
This was prior to a partnership between the SHA, Parkland Ambulance and police that saw a paramedic oversee the detention cells overnight to ensure people were getting medical assistance in a timely manner.
Bradbury said paramedics were not there because Norfield was in medical distress, but for a scheduled pickup to take Norfield in for an assessment related to his public health order breach.
Paul Ross was the manager of environmental health services with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) at the time. His testimony revolved around the process of rolling out detention orders, which were not intended to penalize the patient, but for the sake of public safety.
Ross said Norfield required a medical assessment to determine if he was healthy enough for a two-hour drive to the provincial detention facility in North Battleford. This was also required due to a lack of medical support at the facility.
He was deemed unfit to be transferred.
“This might have been the first or one of the earlier (cases)” in Prince Albert that required police involvement, he told the inquest.
Another witness, public health inspector Alden Georget, said the health care system was still learning how to navigate COVID-19.
“One analogy was building the plane as you fly,” he explained.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Norfield tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 24 and was ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.
On Nov. 30, Norfield went to the hospital twice, saying he took a higher dose of his prescription medication. Although he complained of chest pain, blood and urine tests, along with a chest scan, showed no abnormalities.
Norfield was told to stay in his room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites on “assisted isolation,” said Ross.
On Dec. 1, Ross said he received a call that Norfield was not complying to isolation orders. Ross went to the hotel and spoke with him in the hallway.
“I really thought I had gotten through to him,” said Ross, adding that he was satisfied that Norfield would comply moving forward.
Instead, Ross was informed that Norfield had left the hotel. He was located downtown at Checker & Family Taxi and Georgie’s Beer & Wine Store – that’s when police took him into custody.
Further details will be released when more witnesses testify throughout the week.
Inquests are mandatory when a person dies in custody, unless the coroner is confident that the death was of natural causes and could not have been prevented.
Inquests are not civil or criminal proceedings, but are intended to determine the facts to prevent similar deaths in the future.