PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) — All the production lines at a Port Coquitlam food plant were shut down Friday, marking a moment of silence for a worker there who recently died in his sleep from COVID-19. That man was in his 30s.
Colleagues then took the time to say a few words about and say goodbye to a kind young man whose death after being diagnosed with the coronavirus just 10 days ago has shocked everyone at the family-owned business.
“They can’t gather right now, they aren’t socializing out of work and this might have been their only chance for a while to have some healing,” explains Aaron Schroeder, the director of operations at Nutri-Nation functional foods.
“To lose our friend and coworker at such a young age is especially upsetting, he had his whole life ahead of him. To say our coworkers are like family can sound cliché, but truly the friendships in our workplace are deep and we’re a family business so our actual families are here.”
Schroeder, who also heads up the COVID-19 take force at the company, says his friend’s death has been a devastating reminder to take the pandemic seriously as cases in the region surge.
“It’s been our priority to keep the people under our roof safe, but COVID-19 is here and it’s knocking on the door. It’s breaking its way into our homes, and the workplaces, and the stores,” he says.
“Having this happen, it did make it personal, and it was a blow to us. I really hope no other business or family has to experience the loss of somebody so special. It was a shock, and everyone is deeply saddened. It’s a tragedy.”
Safety protocols at the plant are stringent, according to Schroeder they include temperature checks four times per day, mandatory medical masks, and frequent audits for compliance.
“We were obsessively paranoid in creating our programs. We never would have thought that we would have lost somebody to this,” he says.
“I feel the safest at work, I happen to be lucky and I feel safe at work but if you don’t feel safe at work talk to someone that matters, and if you don’t feel safe at home, make your home safe.”
Contact tracers haven’t yet been able to figure out how and where the man contracted COVID-19.
“They seemed confident it was not transmitted in the workplace,” Schroeder says.
“He was not complacent.”
Tightened restrictions are in place in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health regions through Nov. 23, and Schroeder is pleading with people to follow them.
“Now is the time. Be smart out there,” he says.
“You’re fine until you’re not, This young man was fine until he wasn’t. It’s something our young adults need to learn, everyone does.”