Covid testing signs
Signs at the entrance to the Curative COVID-19 testing facility at the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Pete Rosos

Three more people who live in Berkeley have died of COVID-19, bringing the city’s death toll to 12, the city reported Thursday.

Up until the last day of the year, Berkeley’s deaths from the virus had remained at nine. The majority of other deaths happened in the summer, with the last occurring on Sept. 25 during the previous case surge.

The city has not confirmed when or where these deaths happened due to health privacy concerns.

According to Alameda County data, the number of deaths in Berkeley remained at nine until as recently as Dec. 28. These numbers are sometimes updated retroactively after a cause of death is confirmed, or new information becomes available.

There is an ongoing virus outbreak at Silverado memory care home on Sacramento Street (at Bancroft), which cares for people who have Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and other memory loss. The outbreak began after the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Jeff Frum, a spokesperson for the facility.

At least two people who tested positive for the virus died at the facility last week, according to family members, but the Alameda County coroner’s office couldn’t confirm that COVID-19 was their cause of death as of Thursday. State data from Tuesday listed COVID-19 deaths at the facility as “less than 11” to protect privacy, which could mean as low as one. (Note: The link to state data has been updated with the latest numbers as of Jan. 8)

There are 24 staff members and 29 residents who have the virus at Silverado currently, according to state data. Silverado is the only long-term care facility in Berkeley, along with five skilled nursing facilities, and its outbreak is currently the largest at a long-term care home in Alameda County.

Frum said the facility is licensed for 87 residents and there are usually as many staff members. In total, 25 staff and 37 residents — a little over a third of the facility — have been infected there, according to state data.

The city would not comment on an outbreak at an individual care home or specify testing requirements, but city spokesperson Echa Schneider said the facility has a detailed mitigation plan involving testing and preventative measures with support from Berkeley Public Health. Schneider sent out a statement on behalf of the city.

“This tragic news is a grim reminder of the threat facing our community, and the urgent need for collective action to halt further spread of a disease that has already killed nearly 25,000 Californians and over 340,000 people across our nation,” according to the city of Berkeley statement.

“With this easily-spreading virus continuing to surge and ICU capacity across the Bay Area below 8%, everyone has the power to make a difference. We urge residents to continue staying home except for essential needs, avoiding gatherings, keeping errands short, and being vigilant about masking and physical distancing when out. Each choice we make as individuals to avoid an opportunity for transmission can prevent further suffering among all of us.”

Silverado hadn’t had a single case of COVID-19 before Thanksgiving, according to Blum, but cases have been reported at Berkeley Pines, Chaparral House, Elmwood and Kyakameena care centers. Residents have died of the virus at Berkeley Pines, Elmwood and now Silverado, according to state data.

There was also a massive outbreak at the Golden Gate Fields racetrack on the border of Berkeley and Albany in November, resulting in over 300 cases and at least one death.

As of New Year’s Eve, there have been 1,854 COVID-19 cases in the city and 12 deaths in Berkeley. In Alameda County, there have been 48,366 cases and 134 deaths. The Bay Area region remains under strict shelter-in-place orders with most recreational activities and outdoor dining closed during the holiday.

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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...