AN AIR-POWERED, inflatable Christmas tree costume is being investigated for possibly spreading Covid-19 and causing the death of a staff member at a hospital in California.
An employee at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center who wore the costume on Christmas Day and briefly stepped into the emergency department may be connected to a coronavirus outbreak there, the hospital told ABC 7 on Monday.
From Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, 44 staffers in the emergency department tested positive for Covid-19, the hospital’s senior vice president and area manager Irene Chavez said in a statement.
A woman who was working in the emergency department on the holiday died of Covid-19 complications, according to the hospital.
Her identity has not been released.
The staffer who wore the air-powered costume and possibly blew coronavirus droplets around the area has not been revealed.
Chavez said that “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 added: “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.”
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert with the University of San Francisco, explained how an inflatable costume could spread Covid-19.
“These random air currents from the leak, in concert with the random movements creates an unpredictable flow,” he told ABC 7.
“Airflow on droplets can give these droplets super powers, make them smaller and lighter, and keep them suspended in the air and potentially blow them around. That’s what we call aerosol generation.”
Parts of the hospital’s emergency department have had deep cleanings and it is still running and receiving patients.
Authorities continue to investigate the costume and incident and are doing contact tracing of the staff and patients.
Hospital staff said the woman who died was an “absolutely wonderful” person, according to the Daily Mail.
Staff in the emergency department got the Covid-19 jab less than 10 days ago and were the first at the hospital to receive it.
However, none of them had reached immunity to the virus because they have not had the second dose.
Close to 40,000 health care workers at Kaiser Permanente have been vaccinated.
California has experienced more than 26,530 Covid-19 deaths and is the third state to surpass 25,000 deaths, after New York and Texas, according to Johns Hopkins University.