Death toll rises to seven at Hayward nursing home

Seven residents have died at a Hayward nursing home after testing positive for the coronavirus, Alameda County health officials said Thursday.

At least 40 other residents of the Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center and 25 staff members are infected, officials said as medical professionals like Tyrica Cisco were called to help fill the void.

"I'm doing everything that I can do," Cisco, a certified nursing assistant said outside the facility Thursday.

"They're OK - I mean as OK as they can be, obviously," Cisco said of the infected residents. 

Cisco came to Gateway several days ago to help out.  She says it's been hectic.

"Like a chicken with my head cut off," she said with a laugh.

Even so, she says she'll fulfill her duties to care for residents.

"I guess it's a scary time for everybody right now at the moment, but this is what we signed up for, so you just gotta do your job," Cisco said.          

Infected residents - many with underlying health conditions - have been moved to one side of the facility.

Jaime Patino is a Union City councilmember whose 85-year-old grandmother receives round-the-clock care at Gateway. He said he didn't learn about the deaths until he saw it on the news.

"It just totally surprised me, and I called my dad. He didn't know anything about it, and he's the guardian," Patino said. 

Gateway did reach out to the family on Thursday, he said. Despite the deaths, Patino says his grandmother is staying put. She's healthy, but is hard of hearing and has mid-stage dementia.

 "Right now, I have my hesitations to leave her there, but right now this is probably the only option at this point," he said. 

State records show that Gateway has a history of violations, including in June, when a resident wasn't given an antibiotic on time because a registered nurse wasn't on duty. There were also washbasins filled with used disposable needles in an unlocked utility room.

"You’re seeing understaffing and you’re seeing infection control – the two things are related because if you don’t have enough staff, you can’t clean these places and you can’t keep them safe," said Mike Dark, an attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. 

In a statement,  Alameda County Public Health said, "We take these cases very seriously and have established a task force to address the unique needs and challenges of these facilities."

For Cisco, the nursing assistant, she said she's up to that challenge.

"I signed up for it, but I didn't think I was going to be part of a pandemic. But unfortunately, that's the cards we were dealt," she said .