Family speaks out as death toll hits 11 at Hayward facility

At least 11 residents of a Hayward nursing home have now died after testing positive for the coronavirus. Many became sick or died within the past couple of weeks.

But it wasn't until Tuesday, that a formal order to control the spread of COVID-19 at nursing homes went into effect in Alameda County.

"Universal masking - so everybody inside the facility should be wearing some kind of mask," said Dr. Erica Pan, the county's health officer.

And all visitors to nursing home and group care facilities will be carefully inspected.

"Anyone who comes into the facility must have temperature screening and symptom screening," Pan said. 

But relatives of some victims who died at Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center - and staff - have told KTVU that this is too little too late - that for a time, no one was wearing protective masks.

KTVU asked Pan what went wrong at Gateway.

"I can't speak to specifically which of those many things that are recommended didn't happen correctly, but yes, it's a very unfortunate situation," Pan said.

More than five dozen Gateway residents and staff have been infected. A second facility in Alameda County, the East Bay Post-Acute Healthcare Center in Castro Valley, reported its first death Tuesday.

"It is a very hard disease to contain, once it starts to spread as we've see, you know, in multiple different settings," Pan said.

Alby Kass was among the 11 residents of Gateway who died after becoming infected with COVID-19.

Kass, a musician, performed at Gateway with his sons and a friend, just weeks before he fell ill.

"I heard him coughing a little bit, but it wasn't to any degree that really aroused my suspicion," said his son Larry Kass.

But within days, his condition grew worse, and he died at a hospital.

Larry Kass said he's reserving judgment on Gateway with respect to his father's death. He says the issues go beyond senior living centers.

"I feel they're just a symptom of so many things in our social and medical and political systems that need to be improved so we can weather something like this better in the future," he said.