The family of Darwin Doloque is mourning the sudden loss of “a great man” who was loved and cherished by many — another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 35-year-old died in January after contracting COVID-19 linked to an outbreak of the virus at the Red Deer Olymel meat processing facility. He didn’t have any comorbidities that contributed to his death, according to Alberta Health.
As of Tuesday, Alberta Health confirmed 343 COVID-19 infections were linked to the outbreak, with 200 still active and 142 considered recovered.
The plant was closed down Monday, with the company saying in a statement it no longer believed it could carry out operations safely and efficiently due to the growing number of cases.
Friends and family celebrated Doloque’s life with a memorial service earlier this month, with his friend Beverly Bolor sharing that since his death, the “outpouring of love and support for him” has been “inspiring and heartwarming.”
“Darwin was a loveable son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, a loving partner, a dependable and caring friend, a funny, a jolly and an exceptional person,” Bolor said.
Doloque was born and raised in the Philippines, where he worked as a teacher before leaving his home to work abroad. He became a permanent resident of Canada and lived out his dreams of travelling to various provinces as well as to Europe and the U.S.
Bolor said Doloque tried to spread happiness in any way he could, and that the love he had for his family and friends was “apparent in everything he did.”
“Darwin was one of the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever known,” Bolor said.
“He found it hard to say no to any requests. He was an eternal optimist with a quick and ever-ready smile and an always-positive attitude. He always firmly believed that the best was yet to come, and he never lost hope until his last breath.”
Bolor said Doloque leaves behind his mother, brothers and sisters and his partner.
“Our time together has been cut short but the happiness will last a lifetime,” his partner AnnaLiza Bolor said.
“I will mourn the loss of my soulmate, my confidante, my everything.”
Speaking about the Olymel outbreak on Tuesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the plant has seen sporadic COVID-19 cases being confirmed over the past several months, and processes put in place at the site have worked to prevent spread. Officials also considered declaring the outbreak over because there had been no cases for a long while.
Hinshaw said there was a “confluence of events that involved activities not limited to what was happening on the worksite,” where transmission happened, which contributed to the significant spike in cases.
She added local public health officials have been doing “a great deal of work” to make sure the Olymel workers are being given “any supports they may require for isolation or quarantine, offering testing and making sure that the risk of any spread into other worksites is reduced as much as possible.”
— with files from Global News’ Jill Croteau