Forty-three Kaiser Permanente emergency staff members tested positive for the coronavirus between December 27 and January 1, Kaiser hospital officials revealed on Saturday, and another one confirmed to be infected on Sunday.

COVID-19 Outbreak

The hospital has started an investigation to determine the origin of the outbreak and if the incident of one personnel wearing an air-powered costume with a fan on Christmas Day is to blame.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the hospital said, “Using our infection proven 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.” It added that it would no longer allow air-powered costumes in its facilities.

The employee who wore the costume did show symptoms of the COVID-19 infection at the time and was only trying to cheer his colleagues up. However, an ER staff who wished to remain anonymous said there might have been another reason for the hospital’s coronavirus outbreak.

The employee said, “They were doing respiratory treatments inside a room that they’re not supposed to.” The emergency department was under deep cleaning, said officials, and that they claim that Kaiser is safe and open for patients seeking medical treatment. However, the employee said that the deep cleaning claim the hospital made was false.

The personnel added, “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.”

Hospital officials said that they were rapidly testing all the doctors and employees in the emergency department. The personnel that test positive or who show symptoms will undergo the standard quarantine process according to the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The statement added, “Even as the vaccine is beginning to be provided in our communities, given the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community we are all still vulnerable, and it remains critical for everyone to continue using the methods to help protect ourselves and others – especially masks, hand washing, avoiding gatherings, and social distancing.”

A few of the infected healthcare staff already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, they were not expected to have receive immunity from the virus when the outbreak occurred.

Numerous Kaiser employees said that they feel the hospital was not properly caring for them and protecting them from the threat of the disease, NBC Bay Area reported.

On Sunday, the Santa Clara County Health Department released a statement that said, “The Public Health Department is aware of and currently investigating a significant COVID-19 outbreak associated with the Kaiser San Jose Emergency Department.”

The department added that Kaiser hospital was responsible for complying with the regulations, public health orders, and work safety regulations, including the ones that Cal/OSHA issued. The statement said that the establishment was in charge of timely reporting cases and all required follow-ups.