British Columbia

Veteran tree planter dead after COVID-19 outbreak at Quesnel reforestation site

A veteran tree planter has died after he was exposed to COVID-19 while travelling to a reforestation operation in Quesnel.

The forestry industry is grieving the loss of the 80-year-old

A scenic shot of the city of Quesnel, B.C. Health officials declared an outbreak at a reforestation operation in Quesnel on May 21. (CBC)

A veteran tree planter has died after he was exposed to COVID-19 while travelling to a reforestation operation in Quesnel.

The 80-year-old man worked for Dewan Enterprises as a reforestation sub-contractor. 

Health officials in northern B.C. declared the outbreak at the reforestation operation in Quesnel on May 21, three days after he died. A total of nine people have tested positive in the outbreak. 

The outbreak involved Dewan Enterprises and MikeGroSite Consulting. Both businesses were ordered to close on May 10 after public health investigations found employers failed to ensure safety protocols were in place and being followed, including wearing masks.

"The person was exposed to people when they were being transported between the airport and the operation," said Dr. Trevor Corneil, an acting medical health officer with the Northern Health Authority.

Corneil says the man wasn't planting out in the field, but was working within the city when he was exposed to the virus. 

Jordan Tesluk, B.C.'s forestry safety advocate, says the entire tree-planting community is grieving the loss of a beloved veteran member. 

"Because this is a veteran of the industry and someone who likely planted several million trees, people are very sad," Tesluk said. 

Tesluk says this is the first death from COVID-19 in the industry in B.C.

He says workers are very upset over the loss, especially those who have been diligent throughout the pandemic. 

Authorities say they will not be revealing the man's identity citing privacy concerns.

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