HAYWARD (CBS SF) — Alameda County health officials on Friday reported new coronavirus cases and deaths from two nursing homes that have been heavily impacted by the outbreak and where owners have been cited for previous violations.
At Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward, officials reported 9 deaths, up 2 from the 7 reported Thursday. 41 residents and 25 staff at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19 for a total of 66 cases with one new additional case from the previous day.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
At East Bay Post-Acute Healthcare Center in Castro Valley, there were no deaths as of Friday. 15 residents and 21 staff tested positive for COVID-19 for a total of 36 infections, up 5 from Thursday’s total of 31.
Both East Bay senior care facilities have come under scrutiny amid the health pandemic after it was discovered they were both reportedly fined for violating state public health policies.
Barbara Rios told KPIX she was worried about her mother, an amputee who lives at Gaeway. She said she didn’t even know that people were dying at the facility. “I just want to get some answers and get her out of there,” she said.
The Alameda County public health department said it learned of the first positive COVID-19 case at Gateway around March 24. But the public and family members found out about the outbreak and subsequent deaths this past week through the news.
The county blames the lack of communication between parties on Gateway. “From the beginning, from the time we heard about the first case, we told them you need to communicate with the families,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Alameda County’s Health Officer.
Some family members of Gateway residents say that when long-term facilities fail to act and communicate, the county should step in. But Pan said that the county may not have authority to take control of the situation.
“Here’s our dilemma with this. We want to work with the facilities. But if we go public, we worry facilities will not self report to us,” Pan explained.
The county says it continues to provide training, support and guidance Gateway in an effort to reduce more infections.
In a statemenet to KPIX on Friday, Gateway said the media has mischaracterized and misrepresented their handling of the crisis. Officials said they are working with the state and county to contain the outbreak.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday the state has identified seven sites with hundreds beds to take care of senior care residents who are forced from their current facilities, including the USNS Mercy hospital ship.
There are 1,224 major senior care facilities statewide; of those, 191 were being monitored by state health officials where there have been 1,266 individuals and staff members who have contracted the virus, Newsom said.
There are also 7,464 smaller care facilities statewide, Newsom said, where 94 are being monitored with outbreaks that have 370 residents and staffers ill with the coronavirus.
“You may consider those numbers and say that sounds relatively modest,” said Newsom of the numbers of infections in senior care facilities. “That doesn’t show the entire picture. There have been some appropriate headlines about certain areas of the state of California and specific facilities that have become hot spots, where we have seen a disproportionate number of people contracting the disease and number of people tragically passing away. What we have done is … put in new guidelines that have been backed up by staff, what I would refer to as SWAT Teams, of infectious disease control professionals, working with the CDC and others, to saturate those areas of concern and focus.”
Newsom added the additional staff focusing on senior centers was working to “quickly identify those individuals, isolate, quarantine, and ultimately trace and track the pattern of the infection.”
“We are making calls in an unprecedented way,” said Newsom. “It’s not an exaggeration, 1,500 field offices every single day, calling every single nursing facility in the state.”
The owners of the Gateway nursing home have a record of violations at the center and reportedly were denied licenses to operate other such facilities in the past. A family member of one of the Gateway residents told KPIX 5 Gateway finally reached out to them Thursday morning and said they were fully staffed. But it’s unclear where those staff members are coming from.
A California Department of Public Health (CDPH) enforcement action dashboard shows East Bay Post-Acute last month was fined $75,000 for a class AA citation, a violation that CDPH has “determined to have been a direct proximate cause of death of a patient or resident of a long term care facility.” In January 2019, Gateway was fined $1,000 for a Class B violation, which has a direct or immediate relationship to patient health, safety, or security. A similar fine was issued to Gateway in 2016.
Anthony and Prema Thekkek, owners of Gateway, have reportedly been cited for violations at other skilled nursing facilities they owned across the Bay Area, including abuse and lack of infection control.