British Columbia Video

B.C. care-home worker called a 'tireless provider' dies from COVID-19

Warlito Valdez tested positive for COVID-19 after exposure on the job, employer says

Posted: April 08, 2020
Last Updated: April 08, 2020

According to a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family of Warlito Valdez, he was a 'tireless provider' to his wife and daughter. (Christine Totten/GoFundMe)

Flozier Tabangin said her husband, Warlito Valdez, was a hero.

Valdez died of COVID-19 last weekend. He was 47.

His employer, the Richmond Society for Community Living, said it became aware he caught it on the job as a residential worker helping people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

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"He was a hero. He loved his work so much," Tabangin told reporters from the front door of her Richmond home where she is self-isolating.

Flozier Tabangin talks about her husband and her worries about the future:

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Flozier Tabangin says her husband, Warlito Valdez, was a hero for his dedication to his job and family. She's worried about their future now that he has died of COVID-19.  0:48

"My husband has a very good heart. He is such a gentleman and a very nice person, loving husband.

"It's just too sad he's gone."

Now, she said, her only priority is how to raise and provide for their young daughter without him.

Flozier Tabangin speaks to reporters outside her Richmond home Wednesday morning. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

'Tireless provider'

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Valdez died April 5, according to a GoFundMe page that Valdez's co-workers started. The page described him as a "tireless provider" who worked multiple jobs.

Friend and former co-worker Minerva Rivera, speaking on the phone from Montreal, said she witnessed his dedication for 13 years.

She and Valdez worked in Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2014, she said, as nurses at a hospital dispensary. They became fast friends and Valdez is the godfather of her son.

"He's like a father, a brother to everyone," Rivera said. "He is so nice. He's a person you can talk to about anything."

Warlito Valdez, left, poses for a photo with his co-workers in Saudi Arabia. Friend and former co-worker Minerva Rivera, front row, said their former colleagues from their time in the Middle East have heard the news of his death and are devastated. (Minerva Rivera)

Rivera said she and Valdez were both from the same part of the Philippines. He did his post-secondary education there before working abroad.

They last spoke about a month ago. She was planning to visit him and meet his family. He insisted she stay in the spare room of his house instead of paying for a hotel.

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"If you need something you can count on him any time," she said.

'Shocked and saddened'

The Richmond Society for Community Living was informed of Valdez's death over the weekend, acting executive director Shannon Crofton said in an email.

"We were shocked and saddened," Crofton wrote. "We grieve the loss of a friend and colleague; RSCL has reached out to Warlito's family to arrange for any support that we may offer during this difficult time."

The society has had pandemic control policies in place since early March, she added, and is following the recommendations of health authorities to protect staff and clients.

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Still, maintaining physical distancing while providing individual support is "challenging." 

At Valdez's home, a bouquet of flowers and candle were left on the doorstep Wednesday morning. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Crofton said the society has been in contact daily with staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 and has offered help like grocery delivery.

RSCL provides services for people with developmental disabilities, according to its website. Those services include skills training and residential care homes for adults.

'It's a very deadly virus'

Tabangin said she's not looking to assign blame for the loss of her husband.

After she finishes her self-isolation, she says she must return to work. 

"I'm worried, too. I'm a health care worker, but [I have] no choice," Tabangin said.

"You don't know where, when, can you have this disease, right? It's a very deadly virus."

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

With files from Tina Lovgreen and Rafferty Baker