On Christmas Day, a Kaiser hospital employee wore an air-powered Christmas tree costume that was meant to spread the holiday spirit but instead may have spread the COVID-19 virus to more than 40 of the hospital’s staff members.

Marianne Favro, an NBC Bay Area reporter, posted a photo of the costume on Twitter. The picture showed a smiling Christmas tree with a red nose and ornaments strung to it, such as yellow balls, red garland, and a star on top.

It works with a battery-operated fan to fill the inside with air to give the costume its shape. Kaiser hospital officials said the investigation was still ongoing to determine whether the costume was the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak that infected 44 staff members.

Massive COVID-19 Outbreak

Kaiser San Jose Senior Vice President Irene Chavez said, “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.” He noted that the costume was not previously approved by the hospital. 

Kaiser hospital has recorded 44 staff members of the emergency department that have been infected with the coronavirus since December 27, with one person losing their life, Chavez added.

The hospital released a statement that said, “Out of respect for patient privacy and the family, we have no additional information to provide,” while withholding the identity of the deceased employee. Officials of Kaiser also expressed their sympathies with the affected families and are providing assistance to their employees.

Chavez confirmed that after the incident, the hospital’s emergency department remained open but is conducting deep cleaning services for safety purposes. Additionally, 40,000 health care workers of Kaiser Permanente in Northern California have been inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine.

“The idea that they wanted to bring a little bit of joy is noble. It’s really a sad and terrible thing. It emphasizes the thing over and over again: You can’t tell who has COVID,” the Chairman of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, Dr. Bob Wachter, told KCBS Radio on Monday.