Coronavirus: In Alameda County, dozens of nursing home staff and residents test positive for COVID-19

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By Annie Sciacca | and Thomas Peele | | Bay Area News Group/Mercury News

In what appears to be the largest Alameda County coronavirus outbreak, a skilled nursing facility in Hayward could have more than 40 cases of COVID-19, while another facility in Castro Valley has almost two dozen confirmed cases across staff and residents.

The Hayward facility, called Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center, has 21 positive cases among its 49 residents, said administrator Andre Aldridge. He was not immediately clear on how many staff members have tested positive, but said it was about 20, or more.

That could bring the number of positive cases above 40. He said the center is still awaiting test results, which are being conducted through both Kaiser and the Alameda County Public Health Department.

In Castro Valley, 12 staff members and nine patients at East Bay Post-Acute Center have tested positive.

While staff are isolated at home and showing “mild symptoms,” one patient who tested positive is hospitalized in stable condition, according to a written statement from facility administrator Shane McCormack issued through a spokesman.

“The remaining patients were isolated from the other residents and staff upon showing symptoms,” he added. “We are working in close coordination with county health officials to monitor their progress.”

A spokeswoman for the Alameda County Health Department, Neetu Balram, would not provide the numbers of cases in the Hayward and Castrol Valley facilities Tuesday night, only confirming there are COVID-19 cases in each facility. “Our standard is not to share details about specific facilities to protect their privacy,” she wrote in an email, declining to identify which nursing homes in the county have outbreaks.

“We are tracking suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities throughout the County. We take these cases very seriously,” she wrote.

The Hayward facility had at least 42 citations — but no fines — from the state health department between 2016 and 2019, according to information from the U.S. government and from reports posted online by the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica. Public records show that included in the home’s citations was one for failing to “ensure that sufficient staff was available” to give a patient intravenous antibiotics” to treat a serious infection. The nursing home had no registered nurses working, an investigator found. Another citation was given for similar reasons: the home had no pharmacy staff available to provide medication to patients.

The news comes as other large outbreaks of coronavirus have hit nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the Bay Area. In Contra Costa County, 49 people tested positive for COVID-19 at a skilled nursing facility in Orinda. Of the 27 residents who tested positive, one person died over the weekend — someone who had been in hospice care prior to being diagnosed.

Similarly, a person in hospice care at San Jose’s Canyon Springs Post-Acute Care died after testing positive for COVID-19, a spokesman confirmed Monday. At that facility, 26 people have tested positive for COVID-19 — 20 residents and six staff members, and 13 people were still awaiting test results as of Monday.

A facility in Pleasant Hill — Carlton Senior Living’s campus at 175 Cleaveland Road, which includes independent senior apartments, assisted living and memory care — has four patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and have all been hospitalized, as well as nine staff members who have tested positive and are isolating at home, according to Contra Costa health officials.

Anxiety among family members of residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is building as the outbreaks of the virus increase and expand, particularly as the facilities remain firmly closed to all visitors, including families, under guidance from state health officials.

In San Jose, The Ridge Post-Acute center — formerly the Mt. Pleasant Nursing Center — has been impacted by the virus, administrators Christian Marcheschi and Sean Kimball confirmed Tuesday, but did not clarify how many patients or staff members had been affected.

Marcheschi said it was “hard to pin down a number,” of how many residents and staff have tested positive at the facility, which is a mix of long-term care patients and shorter-term rehabilitation patients. Both Kaiser and the Santa Clara County Health Department are conducting the testing.

The adult child of a patient in the facility, who asked that their name not be used, said it has been difficult getting information about the outbreak from staff.

“Today was the last straw,” the person said of trying to get updates. “There is a lot of anxiety. I am feeling very concerned. This is only the beginning. This could get out of control.”

The stakes are high. With people living in close quarters and interacting regularly with staff members, congregant living facilities like nursing homes and assisted care facilities are vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus, health experts warn.

Christopher Warren, an epidemiologist at Stanford University, said that because people in nursing homes are older, they’re at even higher risk of being vulnerable to COVID-19.

“They also often tend to have comorbid conditions, or other medical conditions that also increase their risk,” Warren said. “Things like diabetes or heart disease that are highly associated to having a real adverse or fatal outcome.”

Mehrdad Ayati, an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University who also has a medical practice called the Geriatric Concierge Center, said he is increasingly alarmed by nursing home outbreaks.

Testing needs to increase, Ayati said, in order to stem the outbreaks.

But counties have differed on that practice. While Contra Costa health workers tested everyone at the Orinda Care Center, other facilities are testing only those who show symptoms.

Securing enough personal protective equipment, such as face masks and gloves, has also been a challenge for nursing home operators and staff, as hospitals and other medical facilities also scramble to stock up, Ayati said.

“In the nursing home industry, every organization has been panicking,” he said. “It’s a bad situation.”

Aldridge, of the Hayward facility, said his staff has been put on 12-hour shifts and are receiving help from nursing assistants from staffing agencies. Asked if the facility had enough face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to project those workers, he replied, “that’s our concern right now.”

Staff writer David DeBolt contributed reporting.