Second employee at Red Deer Olymel meatpacking plant dies from COVID-19

·2 min read
The Olymel pork-processing plant in Red Deer, Alta. A COVID-19 outbreak at the site has infected as many as 1 in 5 workers, Alberta Health Services says. (CBC - image credit)
The Olymel pork-processing plant in Red Deer, Alta. A COVID-19 outbreak at the site has infected as many as 1 in 5 workers, Alberta Health Services says. (CBC - image credit)

A second worker from the Olymel meatpacking plant in Red Deer has died after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19.

Henry De Leon, 50, worked at the plant for 15 years. His family told CBC News he died from COVID-19 on Wednesday night, after three weeks on a ventilator in an Edmonton hospital.

A father of two adult children and grandfather of three, De Leon tested positive on Jan. 28, his family said and the company confirmed.

He was hospitalized first in Red Deer, then transferred to Edmonton, where he died.

His death has not yet been linked to the known outbreak at the plant, which ceased operations earlier this month in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The city of Red Deer hit a new record for COVID-19 cases this week, with 574 active cases as of Wednesday.

Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak at the plant on Nov. 17.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the department has only been notified of one death linked to that outbreak, the Jan. 28 death of Darwin Doloque, 35.

"If a second death is reported to Alberta Health, we will publicly report it," spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement.

He was always happy

De Leon's daughter described him as "the happiest and most caring guy," and said he was "the best dad we could ever ask for."

Like Doloque and many other employees at Olymel, De Leon immigrated to Canada. He came from the Dominican Republic, and his friend and former neighbour, Patricia Marcado, said he dreamed of returning there in retirement.

Marcado said his friend was full of joy and love for his family.

"He was a very happy guy," she said. "He cooked, he cleaned. He did everything for his wife. He was the best husband ever, the best dad ever."

Patricia Salazar worked with Le Deon for 15 years and spent lunch breaks with him at the same table with other friends — some Canadian, some from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. De Leon's wife, who also works at Olymel, would often join them.

"We always sit together at the same table with his wife and other friends," Salazar said. "He was very, very happy all the time."

She recalled De Leon showing off photos of his grandchildren, and said De Leon and his wife were "all the time together, wherever they go, in the plant or outside."