San Pablo councilmember’s family battling COVID-19

Abel Pineda, 26, appointed as San Pablo council member
San Pablo Councilmember Abel Pineda (Photo courtesy of the City of San Pablo)

By Mike Kinney

A San Pablo councilmember announced Tuesday that several members of his family are battling COVID-19, including all members of his household with the exception of himself, who tested negative.

Councilmember Abel Pineda, who was appointed to his council seat last year at age 26, is sharing his ongoing experience with the aim of encouraging fellow citizens to take the virus seriously and to follow public health guidelines that include getting tested, social distancing and wearing face coverings.

Pineda lives with his mother, father and older sister in a small one-bathroom home. He works remotely in his role for the city and as the Northern California liaison for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Lately, he’s also assumed the role of family caretaker.

Last week, his mom and dad weren’t feeling well. His father had a fever, night chills and a cough, while his mother felt fatigue and loss of smell. All four members of the household, including Pineda, went to get tested for COVID-19. Pineda was the only household member to test negative for the virus.

Pineda said his second oldest sister, who lives across the street, tested positive and was asymptomatic, and that her partner and two children tested negative.

Pineda described his family members as “very sick.” Pineda described a frightening moment that’s become familiar in stories about COVID-19. He was in his room when he heard a loud gasping sound. He found that it was his mother. Her eyes were watery, her face red and she was gasping for air with every breath.

“The best way to describe what I saw my mom going through then was akin to a person who had held their breath underwater for a long period of time and was coming up and gasping for air,” Pineda said.

Pineda said he immediately drove his mother to the hospital wearing his personal protective equipment.

“I realized that this might be possibly my last conversation with my mom,” he said. “For people who have never had that type of conversation with your parents, it can be quite frightening.”

Thankfully, his mother was able to return home. Pineda has shifted to becoming a primary caregiver at his home. His duties include checking to make sure his family take their medication on time, checking their oxygen and temperatures, their heart rates and for fever. He expressed gratitude for the medical professionals who take his calls and direct him where needed.

“I am trying my best to remain healthy, while also knowing the obstacles presented with living in a small home and sharing one restroom,” Pineda said. “I continue monitoring them because their health at times improve, and then gets really bad in a moment’s notice. It’s difficult to watch as the health of those you love deteriorate in front of you and you can only provide limited help.”

The councilmember said he’s telling his story in order to echo the warnings that COVID-19 is a serious disease that has immense impact on families living in close quarters.

“Please everyone: wear a mask, practice physical distancing, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and don’t wait until your household is directly impacted,” Pineda said. “You can take steps today to keep yourself, your family, and the public safe.”

The councilmember added, “I have managed to stay safe and negative, but only because I have actively been applying the recommended guidance advised by our health officials. It can be done.”