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Inflatable Costume May Have Caused Massive Outbreak

Worker wore it at San Jose emergency room
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2021 4:22 AM CST
Updated Jan 4, 2021 7:01 AM CST

(Newser) – A staff member came to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente's hospital in San Jose, Calif., on Christmas wearing an inflatable costume—and now 44 colleagues have tested positive for the coronavirus. While it's not yet clear whether the costume is to blame, NBC News notes it was air-powered and the hospital is investigating whether the fan could be the culprit. "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 says in a statement. The costumed staffer is among the 44 hospital workers to have tested positive so far, CBS San Francisco reports.

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All infected staff members are isolating, and the emergency department has been deep cleaned. "We are also moving quickly to test all emergency department employees and physicians for COVID-19," a hospital exec says. "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." Positive tests started rolling in Dec. 27. Inflatable costumes will no longer be allowed inside the hospital, the facility says. The costume was not a planned event, nor was it approved by anyone at the hospital, ABC News reports. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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