Staff at a Port Coquitlam energy bar company are reeling from the death of a COVID-19-positive co-worker, who may be the youngest British Columbian yet to lose their life to the virus.
“He was a very hard worker, probably one of the nicest, calmest, smiliest people in the plant,” Aaron Schroeder, operations director and COVID task force team leader at Nutri-Nation Functional Foods, told Global News.
The man in his 30s, who has not been identified, is one of four people at the company who tested positive for the virus in the last month or so, Schroeder said.
All of them had mild symptoms, he added.
“The symptoms were relatively mild with this one worker who passed as well,” he said.
“Right up until they weren’t. This is what is so shocking and saddening.”
Schroeder said the company was staying in touch daily with the worker at home, until it got the news on Monday he had died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep.
“We called him and nobody answered the phone,” he said.
“That was a hard part. We followed up and got through to his wife, and she told us he was no longer. We were shocked.”
Staff at the plant have taken the news hard, Schroeder said.
The company held a moment of silence for him this week — but due to the impossibility of gathering, it was done over two-way radios, in the workplace.
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Workers had a chance to share their goodbyes, and the company played the Last Post.
“We wanted to do it right away and let them have a chance to mourn and go through the process of mourning together,” he said.
Schroeder is hoping that his colleague’s death will help others understand how serious the virus can be, particularly as case numbers surge in the Fraser Health region.
“This young healthy man was younger than me. COVID was at our doorstep — now it’s in.”
“There was no hospital stay or anything. It was very shocking to us that someone, a young worker, would contract it and have it take such a serious turn.”
To this point, B.C. has not recorded someone younger than 40 dying of COVID-19, and just four deaths under the age of 50, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s latest situation report.
Schroeder is hoping that when others hear the story, they’ll talk to their friends and family about taking precautions, staying home and wearing masks.
“Reconsider the trips and the groups and the outings,” he said. “I think it’s time that we all look at ourselves and bear down.”
Schroeder won’t speculate on where the worker contracted COVID-19, but says his company implemented a COVID-19 safety plan months ago.
The company’s strategy includes daily temperature screening, staggered shifts, plexiglass dividers and mandatory medical masks.
Nutri-Nation has been working with Fraser Health to ensure it is in full compliance safety protocols since its first employee was diagnosed mid-October, Schroeder said.
That has included a review of high-traffic areas, break spaces and carpooling, where one case of transmission was believed to have occurred.
Global News has requested comment from Fraser Health on the death and the cases at the plant.