Esther Hernandez

When she had trouble walking in September, Hernandez’s family placed her in Windsor Gardens Convalescent Center, a National City nursing home, to help her regain mobility. The 94-year-old was expecting to return to her family’s San Ysidro house within a few months.

By the last week of February, Windsor Gardens closed its doors to prevent visitors from carrying in COVID-19, and Hernandez’s relatives could only interact with her through phone calls and window visits. When the family celebrated Mother’s Day with their matriarch on video chat, Hernandez was happily blowing kisses to her daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson — just 6 years old — from her nursing home bed. But her family noticed something was wrong.

“She was asking for water, saying she was thirsty,” said Rebecca Niebla, Hernandez’s granddaughter. “She had this look on her face that something was bothering her.”

Four days later, Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19, her granddaughter said. At the next video get-together with her family, she couldn’t stay awake.

Niebla said that even though Hernandez looked like she was in pain, no staff members at the 98-bed facility checked on her during the six hours the family could see her during their video call that day.

That was the last time Niebla spoke with her grandmother before she died on May 16.

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