43 ER Staffers Test Positive for COVID-19 After Employee Wears Inflatable Christmas Costume at Work

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Several dozen staffers at a San Jose, California, emergency room have tested positive for coronavirus, in a case that could be linked to a fellow employee who wore an inflatable Christmas costume on Christmas Day, CBS News reports.

Kaiser Permanente San Jose Emergency Department released a statement Sunday, which was obtained by CBS News, saying that investigators are looking into if the outbreak, which saw 43 people test positive for COVID-19, was linked to when an employee donning an inflatable costume Christmas Day.

"We have determined that 43 staff members at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Emergency Department have tested positive for COVID-19 between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1," Kaiser Vice President Irene Chavez told CBS San Francisco in a statement. "We will ensure that every affected staff member receives the care and support they need. Using our infection prevention protocols, we are investigating the outbreak and using contact tracing to personally notify and test any staff or patients who were exposed during this time period based on CDC and public health guidelines."

The hospital said that one of the infected staff people did "appear briefly in the emergency department on Dec. 25th wearing an air-powered costume,” CBS News reported.

"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," the hospital said in the statement obtained by CBS News.

The hospital also confirmed in a statement that one ER employee did die after testing positive for the coronavirus, however authorities did not indicate if the staff member caught COVID-19 on Christmas, when the staffer wore the inflatable costume.

"Out of respect for patient privacy and the family, we have no additional information to provide. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this terrible loss. We are providing support to our employees during this difficult time," hospital officials said to CBS San Francisco.

Chavez also said that employees who tested positive for coronavirus or show symptoms are not allowed to go to work and that the emergency room department has undergone a deep cleaning.

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