Home Health News Here's the costume that may have infected 44 people and killed one at San Jose Kaiser – SF Gate

Here's the costume that may have infected 44 people and killed one at San Jose Kaiser – SF Gate

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With a red nose and big smile, a Christmas tree costume worn by a Kaiser employee in a California emergency room on Christmas was meant to spread cheer.

Instead it may have help spread COVID-19, infecting more than 40 staff and killing one at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center.

NBC Bay Area news reporter Marianne Favro shared an image of the costume on Twitter. It shows a red-nosed smiling Christmas tree strung with red garlands and yellow balls and a star on top.

Costumes such as this work via a battery-operated fan that pulls air into the suit and gives it shape. Kaiser is investigating whether the costume, worn briefly by the staffer on Dec. 25, may have contributed to the outbreak by spreading 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,” said Kaiser San Jose Senior Vice President Irene Chavez, adding that the holiday costume was not approved beforehand by Kaiser.

Chavez said 44 staff members of the emergency department have tested positive for the virus since Dec. 27; one person has died.

Kaiser isn’t releasing the name of the employee who passed away due to COVID 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.”

The emergency department is open and undergoing a deep cleaning, Chavez said. Nearly 40,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers in Northern California have already received COVID-19 vaccinations, she said.

Dr. Bob Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, talked about the tragic incident at Kaiser on KCBS Radio on Monday morning. “The idea that they wanted to bring a little bit of joy is noble,” Wachter said. “It’s really a sad and terrible thing. It emphasizes the thing over and over again: You can’t tell who has COVID.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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