Monday, June 21

COVID-19 infections in Kaiser outbreak linked to costume near 100 – SF Gate

The number of people infected with COVID-19 due to a Christmas Day outbreak linked to a costume at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center’s emergency room is nearing 100.

Kaiser said Wednesday that 74 employees who were working Dec. 25 and 15 patients “related to Dec. 25” have tested positive. An employee working in the emergency room on Dec. 25 passed away as a result of COVID-19 complications.

“Out of respect for patient privacy and the family, we have no additional information to provide,” Kaiser said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this terrible loss. We are providing support to our employees during this difficult time.”

When the first infections were reported in staff at the hospital’s emergency room, a hospital spokesperson told the New York Times an inflatable Christmas tree costume briefly worn by a staff member may have exacerbated the spread of the virus.

Costumes such as this work via a battery-operated fan that pulls air into the suit and gives it shape. The costume may have spread droplets through the air.

“Any exposure, if it occurred, would have been completely innocent, and quite accidental, as the individual had no COVID symptoms and only sought to lift the spirits of those around them during what is a very stressful time,” Kaiser San Jose Senior Vice President Irene Chavez told the Associated Press in early January.

Kaiser said Wednesday the incident is still under investigation. “Working with our infectious disease specialists, we are continuing to investigate the outbreak to determine the potential causes and using contact tracing to notify and test anyone exposed, based on CDC and public health guidelines,” Kaiser said. “Given the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities, it is often difficult to pinpoint the specific exposure leading to COVID-19 infection.”

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