A man in Richmond, B.C., has died at home while isolating himself after contracting COVID-19 at his front-line job helping disabled adults, a career with which he provided for a wife, young daughter and parents back in the Philippines.
Warlito Valdez died this past weekend at home despite being in contact with the local health authority after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s top health official, said the death of Mr. Valdez, the second fatality of someone isolating at home in the province, underscores the need for those with the virus to seek more help immediately if their symptoms worsen.
“If you have concerns about shortness of breath, if you have concerns that your fevers and your feeling unwell is not resolving, particularly after five to six to seven days, then call 8-1-1. Call 9-1-1 if you can’t breathe, if you’re feeling shorter breath, if you have chest pain. It is important that people know that these are signs that you need to seek additional help,” Dr. Henry said at her daily media briefing on Wednesday.
She said research is showing that COVID-19 symptoms can worsen from the fifth day onward for some people, adding this appears to have happened with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Some people will be getting better and be fine, other people can very quickly go downhill,” Dr. Henry said. “That’s a critical period of time where we do want to make sure that anybody who has any concerns gets the health care that they need.”
As of Wednesday, B.C. has confirmed 48 people have died from the virus, more than half of whom were elderly residents at a handful of long-term care homes.
Dr. Henry said at Tuesday’s media briefing that there are a “number of small clusters of cases in some of the group homes” in and around Vancouver for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.
“Vancouver Coastal [Health] has been working with those particular homes to ensure that transmission has stopped as much as possible and to test people who have been exposed, and to facilitate people isolating, who have been exposed,” she said.
The Richmond Society for Community Living, Mr. Valdez’s employer, confirmed in a statement that he was infected while working at one of its facilities.
“We became aware that he tested positive to COVID-19 following exposure through the incredibly important work he was doing,” the statement said.
A spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Health did not say whether Mr. Valdez was being visited at home by a public-health nurse before he died or whether his family was giving daily updates on his condition to the local health authority by phone. The spokesperson said the BC Coroners Service is investigating the death.
Mr. Valdez’s younger sister, Alice Valdez, said from her home in the Philippines that she was shocked by her brother’s sudden death.
“It is very painful on our part as his family because we were not there when he needed us,” she told The Globe and Mail over messages on social media. “We don’t even have the chance to hold and hug him for the last moment.”
Ms. Valdez said her brother took care of their parents, who are both in their 70s, by remitting money every month.
“He sends money to us every month, which we use to buy food and pay our bills. He is so kind and generous and he always thinks about our family,” she said, adding her brother was planning to bring their parents to Canada.
Ms. Valdez said she doesn’t have a job and has no idea how the family will get through all of this.
“We hope that his ashes will be sent home here in the Philippines.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Valdez’s colleagues launched a crowdfunding campaign to provide financial assistance to his wife and their daughter.
“It is our hope that the financial contributions will allow Flozier to focus her time and energy on grieving and their daughter, Charlotte. Warlito was a tireless provider for his family – working 2 or 3 jobs,” the GoFundMe page says.
The campaign raised more than $30,000 in about seven hours.
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