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Kaiser Oakland Medical Center Staffers Tied to COVID Omicron Outbreak

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Eleven of 12 COVID-19 cases tied to an omicron variant outbreak in Alameda County are fully vaccinated and boosted staff members at Kaiser hospital in Oakland, according to a Kaiser Permanente spokesman.

The Kaiser Oakland Medical Center initially identified a COVID case among staff on November 30 and notified the county health department. On December 3, the health department announced 12 people had contracted COVID and that five of the cases were confirmed to be the omicron variant with other results pending. A sixth case of the omicron variant was subsequently confirmed.

The Kaiser Oakland staff members, ranging in age from 18 to 49, had attended a wedding in Wisconsin during Thanksgiving weekend. One of those who attended the wedding had also just returned from international travel, according to public health officials.

"These staff members' exposure to COVID-19 happened at a wedding out-of-state, not through their work at the medical center," said Kaiser spokesman Karl Sonkin."They are isolated at home with mild symptoms as reported by Alameda County, which is consistent with the reported severity experienced by other people who are vaccinated and contracted this illness."

Sonkin said Kaiser worked with the county health department to identify potential exposures among patients and identified eight patients and eight staff potentially exposed. Among them 13 tested negative for COVID and the three others are in process.

"Consistent with CDC guidelines, each of the affected staff were isolated at home, after they developed symptoms or received a positive test," said Sonkin. "Any employee or physician confirmed to have COVID-19 or suspected of having COVID-19 due to symptoms will not come to work, in adherence to Kaiser Permanente and CDC isolation protocols."

Scientists don't know whether omicron is more transmissible or makes people sicker. Researchers need more time and data, but a UC Berkeley epidemiologist predicted more holiday gatherings will likely lead to bad outcomes.

"Unfortunately, we're going to see [more COVID cases] this winter," said Dr. Arthur Reingold. "Hospitals are going to be stretched thin and it's going to create problems. Now [will it be] the same magnitude as last winter? I certainly hope not."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges full vaccination against COVID-19 for everyone five years of age and older. Health officials also recommend prevention measures such as wearing a mask in public indoor settings, frequent handwashing, getting tested at the first sign of symptoms, and staying home when sick.



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