43 hospital employees in San Jose test positive for COVID-19

Ashley Terrell

‘We are taking steps to reinforce safety precautions among staff,’ said a hospital representative

A spokesperson from Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center in California issued a statement on Saturday that revealed that at least 43 staff members tested positive for coronavirus.

The Los Angeles Times reports that hospital officials have begun an investigation on whether the origin of the outbreak was from a staff member appearing in the emergency department wearing an air-powered, holiday-themed costume on Christmas.

Image of Kaiser Permanente via Google Maps Street View
Image of Kaiser Permanente via Google Maps Street View

The staff members tested positive between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1.

Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager of the medical center, released a statement referring to the outbreak as “innocent” and “accidental.”

“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,” Chavez said in the 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.”

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Chavez added that air-powered costumes will be prohibited and that social distancing precautions will be reinforced. The hospital is notifying members and patients who were potentially exposed and will test all emergency department staff members and doctors.

Those who have contracted COVID will be directed to stay home to prevent further spread and the emergency department has begun deep cleaning, according to hospital representatives.

“Obviously, we will no longer allow air-powered costumes at our facilities. 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.

A Kaiser employee who spoke with NBC Bay Area noted another possible origin of the outbreak.

“They were doing respiratory treatments inside a room that they’re not supposed to,” the employee told NBC.

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The employee, who chose to remain anonymous, said the deep clean of the emergency department was false.

“That’s a lie. All they did was come in and do a deep cleaning of the small break room. They didn’t do the other parts of the emergency department and there was no deep cleaning.”

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