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Richmond health-care worker who died from COVID-19 at home being called a 'hero'
VANCOUVER -- Flozier Tabangin chokes back a sob, her face half-covered in a surgical mask.
She’s self-isolating. She doesn’t know if she could have COVID-19. And, she’s just lost her husband.
Tabangin’s husband, Warlito Valdez – a health-care worker who helped support those living with developmental disabilities – died at home Sunday. He was 47.
“He was a hero,” Tabangin says. “He died from this virus. And he still went to work.”
That everyday heroism and selflessness of a frontline worker who put the people he cared for first, was echoed by his colleagues at the Richmond Society for Community Living.
One co-worker set up a GoFundMe to help raise money for Tabangin and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Zierlet, or Charlotte.
“Warlito was a tireless provider for his family – working two or three jobs,” organizer Christine Totten wrote. “It would be comforting to those who knew (him) to know that his wife and daughter are being looked after.”
Shannon Crofton, the acting executive director of the society, confirmed Valdez worked with the organization.
Citing privacy concerns, she said she couldn’t share any more details, except to say that her thoughts are with Valdez’s family.
Valdez’s widow, who also works in health care, now wonders when she’ll have to go back to work, and how she’s going to pay the mortgage on her Richmond townhouse with one paycheque.
Most of all, she’s worried about her daughter.
“My daughter is my only priority, whatever help (the government) can give to my daughter,” Tabangin says, keeping her physical distance, sheltered halfway behind her front door.
On Wednesday, the premier addressed the tragedy and pledged someone would reach out:
“My heart absolutely goes out … and we will be there to help in any way we can to bridge whatever programs are available to the family,” John Horgan said, adding that it was a time for all British Columbians to “step up and do what we can to help.”
Tabangin also makes it clear she’s not looking to blame anyone or re-visit the care and attention her husband may or may not have received over the phone. Raising those questions, she says, will not bring him back.
It’s unclear if Valdez had any pre-existing conditions.
While the coroner investigates, B.C.’s top doctor implied Wednesday there are already lessons to be learned.
“Obviously, we’re looking through all of what we’re doing to support people who are isolating at home,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said when asked about Valdez.
Part of that, Henry added, was reiterating to all British Columbians when it’s appropriate to call the province’s health line at 811, and when to skip straight to 911. B.C.'s online COVID-19 self-assessment tool can be found here.
"We do want to make sure that anybody who has any concerns gets the health care that they need," Henry said.
She did not elaborate on specific steps her teams would take to enhance how they are supporting those who are self-isolating.
Vancouver Coastal Health, the local health authority, would not confirm if it was investigating Valdez’s death and deferred to the coroner and the Ministry of Health.
It’s the second so-called “community death” from COVID-19 in the province, after North Vancouver dentist Dr. Denis Vincent died at home in March.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Ben Miljure