News

How an entire household of six got COVID-19

This week, when a Palo Alto mother reached out for help, neighbors and strangers reached back

Palo Alto residents Jesus Valdivia and Zoila Hernandez have COVID, along with the other four members of their household, and are being helped by neighbors and strangers in Palo Alto who heard about their situation. Courtesy Zoila Hernandez.

After nine grueling months of following the mandates and dealing with the restrictions of the pandemic, all it took was one slip-up for Zoila Hernandez and her whole Palo Alto household of six people to become infected with the coronavirus.

Now, days away from her rent deadline, with a diminishing food supply and no stable income, Hernandez is looking for any help she can get to weather the two-week isolation period that started Saturday.

"It's a really, really stressful, painful and depressing time," the Midtown neighborhood resident said.

Since the outset, Hernandez said everyone carefully followed the precautions of the health crisis. The mother personally knows how urgent it is to get the virus under control: In April, she sought financial help on NextDoor after her husband was let go from a job at a now-closed restaurant. The couple has since started delivering food with DoorDash.

Thanksgiving Day was mostly a single household affair: There was Hernandez; her husband, Jesus Valdivia; her son, Moizes; her eldest daughter, Natalie Mendez; Mendez's boyfriend, William Somoza; and Mendez's daughter, Crystal Toris, who is a local high school student.

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Hernandez insisted the holiday be restricted to her own household with the exception of her second daughter, Sasha, who also lives in Palo Alto. (Hernandez's fourth child, a son, didn't come for the holiday.)

"I just wanted to stay home, by myself, with my children," Hernandez said.

Despite her efforts to minimize the health risks, however, by Saturday, Hernandez learned that everyone had been infected with the coronavirus. And the most likely culprit isn't Sasha, she said. (Nonetheless, health officials have repeatedly cautioned against inviting people from outside one's household during the holidays.)

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Moizes, who works in construction, began to feel fatigue and a runny nose, Hernandez said. It's no big deal, he said — just the usual symptoms of the flu during flu season. But his boss correctly insisted Moizes take a COVID-19 test anyway if he wanted to come back to work the following Monday.

Moizes went for a test at Stanford Health Care the Friday after Thanksgiving and received the news within hours that he was positive. Alarmed, Hernandez went with the rest of her household to get tested. By Saturday afternoon, they learned they were all positive.

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"We all feel the symptoms now," said Hernandez, who is 56 years old and diabetic. "I just hope it's not gonna get worse."

Like Hernandez, her husband is in the high-risk category due to his age and his high blood pressure. But every household member seems to be afflicted to varying degrees with the common symptoms of COVID-19, such as body aches, congestion and fatigue, including Hernandez's granddaughter Crystal, who is 14 years old. According to Hernandez, Crystal also wasn't spared from the more unusual symptoms of the illness, reporting a loss of appetite and some irritation in the ears.

Perhaps it would have helped if Moizes had sought a test as soon as he felt his flu-like symptoms. At the very least, it would've prompted Hernandez not to let her daughter Sasha come on Thanksgiving. But beyond that, Hernandez feels there was very little she could do to avoid an outbreak in her two-bedroom home that houses six people.

"I don't live in a hotel," she said.

Now, every household member, including the main income-earners, cannot work or do essential tasks such as shopping for groceries or getting quarters to do her family's laundry. Hernandez said she had tried contacting the county for financial assistance but to no avail.

"The county hasn't been helping us," she said. "No resources. Nothing."

'We all feel the symptoms now. I just hope it's not gonna get worse.'

-Zoila Hernandez, Palo Alto resident

Hernandez is most worried that the family will run out of food and other essential supplies if everyone's stuck in the house. And with rent due in a few days, Hernandez this week again turned to NextDoor to seek help. That's when Becky Chan, a new Palo Alto resident and total stranger to Hernandez, stepped in to help Hernandez receive a much-needed lifeline.

"I'm very privileged because I do work in tech; I'm working from home; I don't need to go outside," Chan said. "In theory, I could live like this for a very long time. But there are people who need to leave their homes to go to work, therefore being more exposed."

Chan, a program manager at Google, was scrolling through the neighborhood social media app when she ran across Hernandez's call for help. Wanting to take a more active approach to helping Hernandez rather than redirecting her to another online resource, Chan decided to set up a GoFundMe page to help raise enough money for the family to get through the month.

"You hear a lot about these resources that are quote-unquote available for people who need help," Chan said. "But until working with Zoila, I didn't really realize how challenging it was to actually navigate and find these resources. Yes, you can Google 'Santa Clara COVID help,' but how you actually get the help is an entirely different story."

Since Sunday, the fundraiser has raised $2,761 out of the $3,400 goal — enough to pay one month's rent and a week of groceries. Other local residents have also stepped up to deliver household supplies and food to Hernandez's doorsteps.

'You hear a lot about these resources that are "available" for people who need help. But until working with Zoila, I didn't really realize how challenging it was.'

-Becky Chan, Palo Alto resident

"What really hit home was when I was setting up the GoFundMe page with her over the phone and asked her what her ZIP code was," Chan said. "I realized, 'Oh, we have the same ZIP code. You're probably just 2 miles down the road.' I tried to write the GoFundMe Page in a way (to emphasize) Zoila is part of our community and anyone can be in her situation."

Though unfortunate, nothing about Hernandez's case is surprising. For weeks and in some cases months, experts have known how COVID-19 would disproportionately impact low-income families, how the virus would be a double-whammy during flu-season, and how it will spike during the holiday season.

In Santa Clara County, citing a dramatic rise in cases, Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody on Saturday announced more local health restrictions.

For Hernandez, she has only the now all-too-familiar message to share: "Please wear your masks; don't go outside much; and don't bring outside family and friends to the house."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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How an entire household of six got COVID-19

This week, when a Palo Alto mother reached out for help, neighbors and strangers reached back

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Dec 2, 2020, 9:02 am

After nine grueling months of following the mandates and dealing with the restrictions of the pandemic, all it took was one slip-up for Zoila Hernandez and her whole Palo Alto household of six people to become infected with the coronavirus.

Now, days away from her rent deadline, with a diminishing food supply and no stable income, Hernandez is looking for any help she can get to weather the two-week isolation period that started Saturday.

"It's a really, really stressful, painful and depressing time," the Midtown neighborhood resident said.

Since the outset, Hernandez said everyone carefully followed the precautions of the health crisis. The mother personally knows how urgent it is to get the virus under control: In April, she sought financial help on NextDoor after her husband was let go from a job at a now-closed restaurant. The couple has since started delivering food with DoorDash.

Thanksgiving Day was mostly a single household affair: There was Hernandez; her husband, Jesus Valdivia; her son, Moizes; her eldest daughter, Natalie Mendez; Mendez's boyfriend, William Somoza; and Mendez's daughter, Crystal Toris, who is a local high school student.

Hernandez insisted the holiday be restricted to her own household with the exception of her second daughter, Sasha, who also lives in Palo Alto. (Hernandez's fourth child, a son, didn't come for the holiday.)

"I just wanted to stay home, by myself, with my children," Hernandez said.

Despite her efforts to minimize the health risks, however, by Saturday, Hernandez learned that everyone had been infected with the coronavirus. And the most likely culprit isn't Sasha, she said. (Nonetheless, health officials have repeatedly cautioned against inviting people from outside one's household during the holidays.)

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Moizes, who works in construction, began to feel fatigue and a runny nose, Hernandez said. It's no big deal, he said — just the usual symptoms of the flu during flu season. But his boss correctly insisted Moizes take a COVID-19 test anyway if he wanted to come back to work the following Monday.

Moizes went for a test at Stanford Health Care the Friday after Thanksgiving and received the news within hours that he was positive. Alarmed, Hernandez went with the rest of her household to get tested. By Saturday afternoon, they learned they were all positive.

"We all feel the symptoms now," said Hernandez, who is 56 years old and diabetic. "I just hope it's not gonna get worse."

Like Hernandez, her husband is in the high-risk category due to his age and his high blood pressure. But every household member seems to be afflicted to varying degrees with the common symptoms of COVID-19, such as body aches, congestion and fatigue, including Hernandez's granddaughter Crystal, who is 14 years old. According to Hernandez, Crystal also wasn't spared from the more unusual symptoms of the illness, reporting a loss of appetite and some irritation in the ears.

Perhaps it would have helped if Moizes had sought a test as soon as he felt his flu-like symptoms. At the very least, it would've prompted Hernandez not to let her daughter Sasha come on Thanksgiving. But beyond that, Hernandez feels there was very little she could do to avoid an outbreak in her two-bedroom home that houses six people.

"I don't live in a hotel," she said.

Now, every household member, including the main income-earners, cannot work or do essential tasks such as shopping for groceries or getting quarters to do her family's laundry. Hernandez said she had tried contacting the county for financial assistance but to no avail.

"The county hasn't been helping us," she said. "No resources. Nothing."

Hernandez is most worried that the family will run out of food and other essential supplies if everyone's stuck in the house. And with rent due in a few days, Hernandez this week again turned to NextDoor to seek help. That's when Becky Chan, a new Palo Alto resident and total stranger to Hernandez, stepped in to help Hernandez receive a much-needed lifeline.

"I'm very privileged because I do work in tech; I'm working from home; I don't need to go outside," Chan said. "In theory, I could live like this for a very long time. But there are people who need to leave their homes to go to work, therefore being more exposed."

Chan, a program manager at Google, was scrolling through the neighborhood social media app when she ran across Hernandez's call for help. Wanting to take a more active approach to helping Hernandez rather than redirecting her to another online resource, Chan decided to set up a GoFundMe page to help raise enough money for the family to get through the month.

"You hear a lot about these resources that are quote-unquote available for people who need help," Chan said. "But until working with Zoila, I didn't really realize how challenging it was to actually navigate and find these resources. Yes, you can Google 'Santa Clara COVID help,' but how you actually get the help is an entirely different story."

Since Sunday, the fundraiser has raised $2,761 out of the $3,400 goal — enough to pay one month's rent and a week of groceries. Other local residents have also stepped up to deliver household supplies and food to Hernandez's doorsteps.

"What really hit home was when I was setting up the GoFundMe page with her over the phone and asked her what her ZIP code was," Chan said. "I realized, 'Oh, we have the same ZIP code. You're probably just 2 miles down the road.' I tried to write the GoFundMe Page in a way (to emphasize) Zoila is part of our community and anyone can be in her situation."

Though unfortunate, nothing about Hernandez's case is surprising. For weeks and in some cases months, experts have known how COVID-19 would disproportionately impact low-income families, how the virus would be a double-whammy during flu-season, and how it will spike during the holiday season.

In Santa Clara County, citing a dramatic rise in cases, Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody on Saturday announced more local health restrictions.

For Hernandez, she has only the now all-too-familiar message to share: "Please wear your masks; don't go outside much; and don't bring outside family and friends to the house."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Neighbors
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:33 am
Neighbors, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:33 am
24 people like this

It turns out I had Covid in the spring -- an antibody test my doctor encouraged me to get confirmed that what I insisted was not Covid had in fact been Covid (and probably was what another member of the household suffered as well). This was fortunately right when things went into lockdown mode the first time, or I could have spread it to many circles in our community, including elderly friends. Thank goodness for the public health directives.

Furthermore, even though I never had to be hospitalized, I definitely wouldn't want to get it again. Take care everyone.


Neighbors
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:34 am
Neighbors, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:34 am
31 people like this

All the best to the Hernandez family for a speedy recovery.


Squidsie
Registered user
another community
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:45 am
Squidsie, another community
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:45 am
18 people like this

They may have limited the gathering to their household, but a household of 6 is at much higher risk than a household of 1 or 2 due to the exponentially higher outside contacts of the household members.


BL
Registered user
College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2020 at 12:46 pm
BL, College Terrace
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 12:46 pm
46 people like this

Condolences to the family, and thank goodness for kind helpers!

The County DOES offer home isolation and quarantine support. Their hotline is 408-808-7770. More info here: Web Link

Community Services Agency Mountain View offers some rent relief, and not just for Mountain View residents. They are getting a high volume of inquiries, but more info here: Web Link

Hope the reporter can share this information with the family!


And
Registered user
Esther Clark Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 1:53 am
And, Esther Clark Park
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2020 at 1:53 am
16 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


And
Registered user
Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2020 at 2:16 am
And, Downtown North
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2020 at 2:16 am
18 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


CovidKid
Registered user
Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2020 at 8:35 am
CovidKid, Mountain View
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2020 at 8:35 am
103 people like this

A "slip-up?" I hope their Thanksgiving party was worth it. They knew the rules and willingly broke them.

What agency turned them away and why? Typical one sided PAOL reporting.


Very strange story
Registered user
Green Acres
on Dec 3, 2020 at 9:59 am
Very strange story, Green Acres
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2020 at 9:59 am
31 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Very strange story
Registered user
Green Acres
on Dec 3, 2020 at 10:46 am
Very strange story, Green Acres
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2020 at 10:46 am
25 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Very strange story
Registered user
Green Acres
on Dec 3, 2020 at 11:04 am
Very strange story, Green Acres
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2020 at 11:04 am
23 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Kristin
Registered user
another community
on Dec 4, 2020 at 6:35 pm
Kristin, another community
Registered user
on Dec 4, 2020 at 6:35 pm
166 people like this

As a child, as many children were also- the rewards of hard work, honesty, and goodwill were instilled to me by my elders on a regular basis. As an example I quote a partial piece by Edgar Guest: "You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if only you will,
You're well equipped for what fight you choose,
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen, great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you." I was taught never, ever to ask for money, but to earn it. There is always some way to earn one's keep. If one got "bad breaks", we were to keep going- and not mention our troubles to others, but to always work, succeed, and even when things didn't go our way to be thankful and never gripe or complain, because there would be others in much less fortunate circumstances than ours. It seems to me today, and call me old and outdated, that all one has to do is open a web site asking for money. TV gone on the blitz? No worries, just ask a stranger, they'll come. Have a sob story of woe? it's all gravy, as everyone will come rushing to your aid, regardless of how you got there. No one will ask how you lost that job, or weren't hired for another- matters not. All that matters is, I get to pat myself on the back for a "job well done!" handing over free money to someone I know nothing about. I no longer reside in California, I cannot afford it, even on a bio-research industry scientists' earnings. I live in a "geographically undesirable" area. I chose this area because I can afford it. If I were in PA right now and could not make rent, I think I would move- wouldn't you?


Common Sense G.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2020 at 11:52 pm
Common Sense G., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 4, 2020 at 11:52 pm
2 people like this

Wow I am not around right now but where I am I can try to help someone. I am going through all my toiletry supplies and pulling out things people can use and putting them in a local pantry. I am leaving food there too. I am donating money however to the Georgia vote to get a much needed change in the senate from heartless McConnel etc. That is where a turn around the corner resides. The reason some people can not access official services or food banks is because poor or unemployed or sick people with social security numbers come first and those with out are back of the line. This may be justified with limited resources but still for those who work under the table it reminds me that this could be like something out of "Angela's Ashes".


Any Beth
Registered user
Stanford
on Dec 6, 2020 at 12:41 am
Any Beth, Stanford
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2020 at 12:41 am
24 people like this

[Post removed.]


Ardan Michael Blum
Registered user
Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2020 at 5:51 pm
Ardan Michael Blum, Downtown North
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2020 at 5:51 pm
6 people like this

This is a beautiful story. It shows how the community can gather to help their fellow in need. Kudos to the editor and the journalist for helping this family in need via this article! I have not yet donated but see that others have and it is heartwarming to see how we can unite. Also Kudos to the people who wrote here (not clear why so many comments were removed on this article) positive statements; spreading a human interest story to our city.


Ardan Michael Blum
Registered user
Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2020 at 8:22 pm
Ardan Michael Blum, Downtown North
Registered user
on Dec 7, 2020 at 8:22 pm
5 people like this

@Kristin: To speak frankly, I see that 163 people (so far) liked you comment. I find this almost embarrassing that apparently a certain portion of this paper's readers seem to read the comments and the article headline instead of, by order, the headline, the article, the comments! What I am getting at is that in this article we are told clearly that the father of the household WAS doing exactly what you claim, Kristin, to be important. He was keeping his head high and found a job with a delivery firm after being fired from his job.

How you can imagine that a family of six people, ill with a highly contagious virus should get up and leave Palo Alto is beyond my understanding. Clearly, as they report getting the silent treatment from the County services, maybe once fully recovered they may, sadly, have to move. I am sure that we will get their news with a follow-up article!


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Dec 8, 2020 at 10:09 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2020 at 10:09 am
6 people like this

I understand Kristen's point about earning your own way through life. I also understand that you can get sick, lose your job(s) and not have enough to pay your rent, etc. Expecting the family to move is absurd. You'll need first and last months rent, etc. Who rents to the unemployed?

The Gofundme has raised close to three times what they were asking for -- rent for one month and money for groceries. If it offends you when people ask for help, just ignore. Palo Alto is a community where people have a little extra money in their pockets, and they're willing to share.


The likes are bogus
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2020 at 10:59 am
The likes are bogus, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2020 at 10:59 am
2 people like this

Ardan: the likes are bogus. You will frequently see far-right sentiments here with lots of likes. They are largely from one or a few people who know how to game them.


Ardan Michael Blum
Registered user
Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2020 at 12:08 pm
Ardan Michael Blum, Downtown North
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2020 at 12:08 pm
5 people like this

At the user with the name "The likes are bogus":


Ok!

Good to know.

PS: I thought of something that we could do - us the comment writers (if not already done) which is to support this paper!

Make a holiday subscription!
PaloAltoOnline is a cool paper. Even if, at times there are some bogus comment likes.

Everyone stay safe!


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