Update, Dec. 23: The number of active cases among residents has increased from 29 to 34, and staff cases remain at 12, according to updated state figures. (Note: this link has been replaced with the most up-to-date numbers as of Jan. 8)

Update, Dec. 23: An 86-year-old woman who tested positive for COVID-19 died at the care home early Tuesday morning, the Alameda County Coroner’s Office confirmed. The cause of her death is still under investigation.

Original story: The Silverado memory care home on Sacramento Street (at Bancroft) in Berkeley has been hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among staff and residents since Thanksgiving, despite successfully avoiding infections from the beginning of the pandemic in March, the long-term care home confirmed.

It has the highest number of cases at any facility in Alameda County, with 29 active cases among residents as of Sunday, and 12 cases among staff.

No one has died from the virus at the facility, which primarily treats patients who have Alzheimer’s and memory loss, according to data from the state.

The care home is one of 22 locations across the country for the Irvine-based care organization. Jeff Frum, spokesman for the company, said Silverado has been following COVID-19 protocols for long-term care facilities since March, and was one of the few facilities throughout the state to have zero cases through the majority of the year.

“However, due to both the infectiousness and the pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission potential of this virus, anyone conducting their typical day-to-day activities of going to the grocery store, filling their car with gas, etc., can be exposed through no fault of their own,” Frum said of the first positive cases of a resident and staff member.

He said the facility has the challenge of having residents who, due to memory loss, do not understand they are at risk for the virus. The facility implemented specific measures to care for residents with memory impairing diseases during COVID-19, and was fully stocked with personal protective equipment throughout, Frum added.

A family member of an elderly Silverado resident who tested positive for COVID-19 told Berkeleyside the facility has been completely transparent about notifying family members, and their heart goes out to the staff and other residents at the care center.

“They were doing so well since this nightmarish pandemic started, and here they are now, so heavily hit just before the vaccine would protect them,” the family member, who wanted to stay anonymous, said. “I can only imagine how scary it is to come to work every day knowing they’re being exposed.”

Silverado COVID-19 outbreak has been “heartbreaking”

Though the facility has done its best to manage the outbreak, the family member said it’s still heartbreaking to endure.

“It’s such a terrible way to lose your loved one because you feel helpless and can’t physically be with them at the end of their life,” said the family member.

Berkeley has five skilled nursing facilities and Silverado is the city’s only long-term memory care facility. Along with Ashby Care Center, Berkeley Pines Skilled Nursing Center, Chaparral House, Elmwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Kyakameena Care Center, Silverado underwent testing of all staff and residents  at the beginning of the pandemic.

More than half of the residents at Berkeley Pines were infected with the virus and one resident died in July, and cases have been reported at Chaparral House and Kyakameena, along with cases and fatalities at Elmwood nursing facility. The state database describes death and case figures as “less than 11,” and the number of deaths at Elmwood is unconfirmed.

As of Tuesday, there have been 1,724 cases and nine deaths to COVID-19 in the city, according to Berkeley Public Health Department. Berkeley, Alameda County and the state are currently experiencing a surge in cases and the whole Bay Area is under strict shelter-in-place orders.

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Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...