Coronavirus outbreak at Kaiser San Jose hospital infects 43

Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center is investigating an outbreak of the coronavirus in its emergency department that has infected at least 43 staff members.

Hospital officials are investigating whether the outbreak was affected by a staff member appearing briefly in the emergency department on Christmas Day wearing an air-powered, holiday-themed costume. The 43 staff members tested positive for the virus between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1.

“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,” Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center, said in a statement.

“If anything, this should serve as a very real reminder that the virus is widespread, and often without symptoms, and we must all be vigilant,” Chavez said.

“Obviously, we will no longer allow air-powered costumes at our facilities,” Chavez said. “At the same time, we are taking steps to reinforce safety precautions among staff, including physical distancing and no gathering in break rooms, no sharing of food or beverages, and masks at all times.”

Chavez said the hospital is notifying and testing any staff or patients who were exposed and is moving to test all emergency department workers and physicians. Workers confirmed or suspected to have contracted the virus will be asked to stay home.

The emergency department is undergoing deep cleaning.

“All our healthcare workers will be offered weekly testing for COVID-19 and expedited testing for anyone with symptoms or exposure to a person with COVID-19,” Chavez said.

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