PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. -- A food manufacturing company in Port Coquitlam has confirmed one of their employees, a man in his 30s, has died from COVID-19.

The man worked at Nutri-Nation Functional Foods, a company specializing in the production of energy and sports nutrition bars. Company CEO Richard Schoeder said the man had been employed since 2014 and operated one of the forming machines on the production line.

Schroeder said the man had been off work for about a week after testing positive to the virus and it’s company policy that they call sick employees everyday to check up on them.

“He sounded like he was feeling well and he would be coming back to work,” Schroeder said. “(The following day), he didn’t answer the phone and we eventually spoke to his wife and she said he had died.”

Schroeder’s son Aaron is the operations manager and team leader of the company’s COVID-19 taskforce. He knew the man quite well.

“It’s a very sudden loss, a hard-working friend, a co-worker. Personally, it feels like the loss of a brother or a son,” Aaron Shroeder said. “This has been very shocking and tragic for us all.”

Richard Schroeder says the company has strict COVID-19 protocols, and has been told by Fraser Health that the man did not contract the virus from the workplace.

Along with multiple signs around the property reminding workers of the safety guidelines, employees also have their temperature checked “at least four times a day.”

“At all of the points of entry we have a facial-recognition, artificial-intelligence-based temperature checkpoint,” Schroeder said. “It also tells if you’re wearing a mask.”

Both men confirmed to CTV News that the worker who died was in his mid-30s, which – according to the latest data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control – would make him the youngest person in B.C. to die from the virus. The BCCDC’s latest Situation Report shows that as of Nov. 7, there are no deaths among people under the age of 40, and only 4 in the 40-to-49 age group.

“His age is shocking, he is a couple of years younger than me and for it to take a turn for the worse like that is unexpected,” Aaron Schroeder said.

Dr. Melissa Lem is a family physician and clinical assistant professor at UBC. She told CTV News she is “concerned about transmission increasing among young people.”

According to data from the BCCDC, cases numbers have increased dramatically in people under 40.

September 17:

  • 20-29: 1,744 cases
  • 30-39: 1,551 cases
  • 80+: 485

November 7:

  • 20-29: 4,973 cases
  • 30-39: 4,070 cases
  • 80+: 890 cases

Lem says she’s concerned about next steps if people don’t abide by health guidelines.

“As we’ve seen in other countries with rising cases, young, healthy adults and children do start dying when enough of the population contracts it,” she said. “To be honest, a lot of my colleagues are terrified to return to a situation where we have to shut down surgeries and hospital services again because of a flood of COVID-19 patients, or even choose who lives or dies because we’re running out of resources.”

Health officials are scheduled to give their next update on B.C’s COVID-19 situation on Monday.