DA launches probe of Orinda facility with coronavirus deaths

The Contra Costa County district attorney's office has launched a preliminary investigation into an Orinda nursing home where at least four residents have died and dozens of others have been infected with the coronavirus.

"We're looking for both civil violations and criminal violations, as the lead law enforcement agency in Contra Costa," said Deputy District Attorney Melissa Smith of the DA's elder abuse unit.

Smith said her office is working with the state attorney general and other agencies, casting a wide net for any potential violations.

"It's to make sure that those who are entrusted with our most vulnerable individuals, our elderly, are doing their best to make sure they're safe during this time of pandemic," Smith said.

DA's inspectors are only beginning their investigation of the Orinda facility, which has had violations in its past, including those related to understaffing.

"Right now our function is to collect the evidence and then determine from there what would be the next appropriate actions," Smith said.

A spokesman for Orinda Care Center Dan Kramer, did not address the investigation directly but said the facility is following protocols to protect its residents and staff. 

KTVU legal analyst Michael Cardoza said, "People have asked for an investigation, saying that they aren't taking proper care of their patients." 

Cardoza said the DA will determine whether staffers at the facility were negligent.

"The government has every right to go in and to see if that's true, see if they've hired the proper people, to see if they're properly trained," Cardoza said.

The investigation is similar to the Alameda County DA's probe of Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward, the site of another deadly coronavirus outbreak.

But a group of nursing home owners is asking Gov. Newsom to grant them immunity from civil and criminal liability over coronavirus-related care.

"I certainly hope he's not going to do that, because it would be license for them to be negligent, and it could cause more deaths," Cardoza said.