Watch CBSN Live

San Jose ER staffer dies amid COVID outbreak possibly linked to inflatable Christmas costume

U.S. tops 350,000 COVID deaths
U.S. tops 350,000 COVID deaths 02:54

An emergency room employee has died after a coronavirus outbreak led to dozens of staff members in the department testing positive for the virus, CBS San Francisco reports. The outbreak at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Emergency Department has infected at least 43 staff members over the past week, hospital officials said. 

In a statement released Sunday night, the hospital confirmed the death but did not indicate if the employee was among the 43 who have tested positive for COVID-19 since December 27. "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 in their statement to CBS San Francisco.

Investigators are trying to determine if the sudden spread was caused by an employee who wore an inflatable Christmas costume in the emergency department on December 25, said Kaiser Vice President Irene Chavez.

In a statement to CBS San Francisco, Chavez said the outbreak began soon after the holiday celebration.

"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," Chavez said. "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."

"We are also moving quickly to test all emergency department employees and physicians for COVID-19," she continued. "Employees confirmed to have COVID-19 or suspected of having COVID-19 due to symptoms will not come to work."

The hospital's emergency department has also undergone deep cleaning and the Medical Center remains open.

Officials said that one of the infected staffers did "appear briefly in the emergency department on December 25 wearing an air-powered costume."

"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.

The outbreak comes as Santa Clara County hospitals are being pushed to the brink by a surge in COVID-19 cases. On Saturday, county health officials reported there were 1,784 new positive cases with 37 deaths and 108 hospitalizations. The county has had a seven-day rolling average of nearly 1,000 positive test results each day.

There were just 10 ICU beds available in the county of over 2 million residents as of Saturday.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.