What was supposed to be a visit to his son, Arwyn Sallegue’s family in Canada early this year, took a turn for the worst when Armando Sallegue, 71, was rushed to the hospital on April 24. A day before, his son tested positive for COVID-19, following an outbreak at the Cargill meat-packing plant in the north of High River, where he is employed. While Arwyn survived the ordeal, after a gruelling battle with the deadly virus, his father Armando passed away on May 5, 2020, Tuesday.
According to an Occupational Health and Safety report, the meat-packing plant did not include workers in an internal review last month, which led to about 950 positive cases of COVID-19 in their employees in High River, Alta. The Cargill plant processes about 4,500 head of cattle a day, which is also more than one-third of Canada’s beef-packing capacity. While it had shut down for two weeks in April because of the outbreak, its reopening last week hasn’t been easy. There are currently 36 active cases among workers from the plant, while 911 have recovered. Alberta’s Opposition NDP and union workers are calling for the province to shut down the said plant, seeing as their workers are facing safety concerns in the workplace.
Before Armando’s untimely death, his son self-isolated after testing positive for COVID-19. However, he still developed symptoms. As a visiting person, he had no medical coverage. Arwyn recalls his father was “barely breathing” and “went into intensive care” soon after. The outbreak linked to Cargill is the largest single site outbreak in Canada. With news circulating online, Filipino meat plant workers from Cargill are under fire, which were found to be an unfair judgment and putting blame on the victims themselves. The plant’s workforce is mostly Filipino, both permanent residents and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who have built a life in Canada. As of writing, the plant has been linked to 1,560 cases, with 946 employees who tested positive. Armando’s death was the second one linked to the outbreak.
Even as a widower, he was kind and friendly with a lot of people in Canada. The Sallegue family were able to say goodbye to Armando over FaceTime before the time of his death, 6:15 PM, in the Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary. Arwyn recalls his dad telling his other son that he kept dreaming of his wife calling for him to come, who passed away three years prior. Armando was set for priesthood before meeting the woman he came to love and marry. To comfort themselves, they like to think that this tragedy brought both parents together again, at last. A memorial for Armando was live streamed for the local community, including friends and family abroad.