Prosecutors in the Bay Area have opened an investigation into a nursing home in Hayward where 13 people have died after contracting the novel coronavirus.

A spokeswoman for Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy O’Malley said Wednesday that her office had begun an investigation into Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center.

Officials said 41 residents and 26 staff members there have tested positive for COVID-19. Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, declined to specify the scope of the investigation but said it began last week.

The inquiry will be handled by a consumer protection division and an elder protection unit, and Drenick noted that prosecutors and inspectors have experience in looking at safety and health issues at long-term care and skilled nursing facilities.

The inquiry comes as nursing homes and assisted living facilities in California are fast becoming an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreaks. The facilities have tens of thousands of elderly and frail residents who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and the rapid spread of infection in the dense living quarters has posed a threat to staff members and those in their care.

Also in Alameda County, East Bay Post Acute has had 22 residents and 23 staff members test positive for the coronavirus, with one resident dying.

Drenick said the inquiry into Gateway Care predated the public calls for an investigation this week by civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing the family of Costell Akrie, an 87-year-old man who died of the coronavirus while at Gateway.

“This is so disturbing,” Burris said this week in a news briefing. “These kinds of numbers warrant and justify an investigation into how the facility is operating.”

Dianne Akrie said her husband was sent to Gateway on March 5 with no symptoms. She said that on March 28 she was told her husband had a low-grade fever and was being tested for COVID-19. Days later, she learned he was positive, and slowly learned of other patients were also testing positive for the virus. On April 4, he died at Gateway, she said.

She said her husband was in a room by himself for most of his stay, and she surmised that a staff member probably would have been the source of the infection.

“My husband’s death was tragic and preventable. He is not with us today because of mistakes and negligence,” Akrie said.

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