Authorities are investigating whether a Christmas costume is responsible for a death and more than 40 confirmed Covid-19 cases among staff at a hospital.
Between December 27 and January 1, 44 employees at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center in California tested positive for coronavirus, CNN reported.
The hospital initially said on Saturday (local time) 43 people had been infected, but the next day confirmed another case, according to KTVU Fox 2.
Those employees worked in the hospital’s emergency department and the centre’s senior vice president and area manager, Irene Chavez, said an investigation was underway to determine whether an inflatable costume was the cause of the spread.
Ms Chavez said one staff member wore an air-powered costume while briefly in the emergency department on Christmas Day.
Pictures of the inflatable costume in question have been shared by US news outlet NBC Bay Area and shows it to be a smiling Christmas tree.
“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,” she said.
All of the 44 employees who tested positive worked Christmas Day. It has now been confirmed an emergency department registration clerk has died of complications due to Covid on Sunday (local time).
Inflatable costumes usually rely on battery-operated fans to suck air into the costume to keep its shape.
Covid-19 spreads through droplets in the air, which is why investigators are looking into the air circulation function of the fan.
Californian hospitals ‘swamped’ as Covid cases grow
There have been more than 20 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, according to Johns Hopkins data and upwards of 350,000 deaths.
According to state data, as of January 3 there have been 2,391,261 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic in California.
The state’s swamped hospitals held more than 22,000 Covid-19 patients, including nearly 4,700 in intensive care units, the Department of Public Health said on Monday.
Authorities have warned of a potential huge surge in cases due to travel and gatherings for the December holidays and New Year’s.
Four regions – San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, Greater Sacramento and the Bay Area – are under the regional stay-at-home order.
Availability at intensive care units in San Joaquin Valley and Southern California is at zero per cent, the state’s Public Health Department says.
with Associated Press
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