Coronavirus: Seven deaths at Hayward nursing home, one more in Orinda; crisis deepens with new infections in San Jose

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By Thomas Peele | Julia Prodis Sulek | Annie Sciacca | and Nico Savidge |  Bay Area News Group/Mercury News

Hayward mayor calls deaths in nursing home there “just heartbreaking”

HAYWARD, CA – APRIL 9: Falck ambulance crew members leave the Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center on Thursday, April 9, 2020, in Hayward, California. Six patients have died and over fifty patients and staff members have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

County health workers sought to restore order in a Hayward nursing home where seven patients have died of COVID-19, as the crisis in facilities that house the frail and elderly worsened Thursday with a second death in Orinda and another outbreak at a nursing center in San Jose.

The Alameda County Health Department reported the new death at Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center and said that total infections there among residents rose to 40 — including the seven who have died — and 25 among staff. Contra Costa health officials reported that a second patient has died at Orinda Care Center, where 50 people had tested positive for the deadly virus.

In Alameda County, health officials sent specialized teams into Gateway and a facility in Castro Valley that also is experiencing a large outbreak but no deaths.

Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday called the Gateway outbreak “just heartbreaking. My heart goes out to everyone involved.”

The San Jose outbreak at Mt. Pleasant Nursing Center has infected 27 people, including half of its long-term residents, and 10 employees and forced administrators to appeal for staffing from other facilities, an administrator confirmed Thursday.

Another nine tests for the virus are pending. No residents have died of COVID-19, and none have been so serious as to require transfer to hospitals for respiratory problems that would require a ventilator, said the facility’s administrator, Christian Marcheschi.

The number of infected workers continues to rise at Canyon Springs Post-Acute Care Center in San Jose, where a spokesman said 20 patients and 15 staffers now have tested positive. One patient who already had been in hospice care before testing positive for COVID-19 died on Tuesday. It was the second patient death at the facility.

In Alameda County, Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said specialized teams were sent to the Hayward and Castro Valley nursing homes to help beleaguered staff.

“They’re going into the facilities to help combat the outbreak and teach staff how to control it,” Kelly said.

In Castro Valley, the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus rose to 31 Thursday, breaking down into 20 staff and 11 patients, a spokesman for the East Bay Post-Acute Center said in an email. That’s a jump from 12 staff and 9 patients infected Wednesday.

As the cases worsened Thursday, this news organization asked four Bay Area counties for the number of nursing homes with coronavirus cases and the number of people in them who are infected. That information has not yet been provided.

The health officials in Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties were not the only ones silent on the extent of the crisis.

The day after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was working on a way to provide relief to beleaguered nursing home staffs, neither the governor’s office nor the California Department of Public Health responded to emailed questions Thursday afternoon about what the state is doing to stem the outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities or address potential staffing shortages.

Nor did Newsom directly address the nursing home deaths or infections at his daily press briefing Thursday. In limited comments about nursing home workers, he said he had “deep respect and admiration” for them and others working in health care and said nursing home staff are, along with hospital employees, being prioritized for receiving scarce supplies of personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns.

In San Jose on Thursday, Marcheschi, the administrator at Mt. Pleasant, was finding other ways to survive.

“We’re using some of our staff from other facilities around the area, even the Inland Valley,” Marcheschi said. “We’ve had staff volunteer to come up from San Diego. We’ve had registry support and county support.

“We’ve had families bring food for the staff, bring by masks, come visit their loved ones through window visits,” he said. Unlike other nursing facilities hit by COVID-19, Mt. Pleasant is maintaining care of all of its remaining residents and not recommending family members take their loved ones home.

The state’s largest health care workers union, the Service Employees International Union, on Thursday called for the federal government to provide personal protection equipment such as masks and gloves to keep workers safe.

In Danville, union health care workers rallied — standing six feet apart — to call attention to their lack of appropriate safety gear. They have been doing all they can to preserve their supply in case it runs out. They declined to give their names or say where they worked out of fear of retaliation.

“We put masks in brown bags when we’re not using them and reuse them for days,” one worker said. Others noted that people are fearful about going to work amid the pandemic when they have to reuse masks. They don’t want to get sick. “We have families,” one said.

At the Gateway in Hayward, director Andre Aldridge said earlier this week he was concerned about a shortage of such equipment. He did not return phone calls Thursday.

Noting Gateway’s staffing issues, Mayor Halliday she there has to be a way for volunteers to help provide basic care to patients.

“We have to have a way to augment the staffs,” she said. “I think this is just the beginning. We’re going to see it in many more homes across the region.”

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