Colleague defends woman who wore Christmas tree costume linked to COVID-19 outbreak

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A nurse spoke up for her colleague who wore a Christmas tree costume now linked to a COVID-19 outbreak that killed one and infected 44 at a California hospital.

The unidentified hospital worker wore the new inflatable air suit in the wards at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Jose on Christmas Day.

In the days that followed, at least 44 employees tested positive for the coronavirus, including one employee who later died.

It is now believed that the costume may have blown virus droplets through the ward of the woman wearing it, who was unaware she had COVID-19 at the time.

It is not clear whether any patients or visitors to the hospital were also infected.

A hospital colleague who was working the morning of the incident told Mercury News the woman wanted to bring “innocent” festive relief to her colleagues and patients.

“She was just spreading joy,” said the nurse who didn’t want to be named.

The giant inflatable Christmas tree costume linked to the spread of COVID-19 to at least 43 California hospital staff, killing one, has been pictured in wards

The nurse said her colleague surprised everyone at the central emergency department nurses station by appearing in costume between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on December 25.

“You just see that Christmas tree come and leap towards you, and it makes you smile.” It was a brief moment of lightness and you get back to work, ”she recalls.

She said she stayed six feet from the costumed woman per social distancing guidelines and wore a mask and face shield alongside all other members of the emergency department.

She recounted how the festive gesture was “the spur of the moment” and insisted that previous reports of a party or gathering of people around the costumed woman were incorrect.

‘[They] painted us with irresponsibility as we strive to save lives. We don’t see our families. It portrayed us as not caring about our community, ”she said.

She added that all staff were wearing masks and “not cuddling” and that no one was wearing Santa hats in the ER this year in case they got in the way of PPE.

A nurse spoke up for her colleague who wore a Christmas tree costume now linked to a COVID-19 outbreak that killed one and infected 44 at a California hospital (above)

A nurse spoke up for her colleague who wore a Christmas tree costume now linked to a COVID-19 outbreak that killed one and infected 44 at a California hospital (above)

But on December 27, two days after the brief mirth, the nurse said she had started showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Many colleagues working on Christmas Day also started to feel sick and have symptoms around the same time, she added.

The woman wearing the costume showed no symptoms on Christmas Day but also tested positive later.

Between December 27 and January 1, at least 44 hospital staff tested positive for the virus.

Officials announced on Sunday that a staff member had died from COVID-19.

The deceased woman has not been named, but is said to be a recording clerk who worked on Christmas Day.

Her death hit the workforce hard as “a death in the family,” the nurse told Mercury News, adding that the woman in the suit felt a “heavy burden” for her death.

“We are physically exhausted and emotionally already taxed, and it’s even more and more,” said the nurse.

“People don’t realize the price it costs and what it takes for us to come in and do what we’re doing.

The unidentified hospital worker wore the new inflatable air suit in the wards at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Jose on Christmas Day.

The unidentified hospital worker wore the new inflatable air suit in the wards at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Jose on Christmas Day.

“Yes, we’ve chosen this profession and we’re all very good at our jobs, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful or less emotional or less devastating when you lose a family member.

The nurse added that she struggled to understand the idea that the costume could have triggered the cluster of cases.

“It just doesn’t seem entirely plausible that that’s all her because it was only a moment in time compared to what we’re dealing with all the time,” the nurse said.

“How is it that if it happened at 9 a.m. people got infected at 3 p.m.?” Could this happen? Yes. But was it tragically a coincidence or something else? We just don’t know.

The Santa Clara County Health Department is investigating whether the costume may have caused the outbreak via its internal battery-powered ventilator that inflated the outfit and may have detonated virus droplets.

Many infected people had already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the outbreak.

But the hospital said they “shouldn’t have achieved immunity when this exposure occurred.”

Above view of a Kaiser Permanente staff member getting vaccinated on December 14.  Many infected people had already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the outbreak

Above view of a Kaiser Permanente staff member getting vaccinated on December 14. Many infected people had already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the outbreak

Officials added, “It is important not only that everyone gets vaccinated, but also that they receive the two doses of vaccine needed to be protected. “

Health officials say people need to receive both doses of the vaccine to get maximum protection, and that partial effectiveness from the first dose usually doesn’t start until around 10 days after the first vaccination.

Irene Chavez, senior vice president and regional manager of Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center, said in a statement that this was a “very unusual situation involving a well-meaning staff member acting alone without notice or approval.” .

“Any exposure, if it had occurred, would have been completely innocent and completely accidental, because the individual had no symptoms of COVID and only sought to lift the spirits of those around him for a period of time.” very stressful, ”she said.

“Obviously, we will no longer allow air-powered suits in our facilities,” Chavez said.

“At the same time, we are taking steps to strengthen safety precautions among staff, including physical distancing and no congregation in rest rooms, no sharing of food or drink and masks at all. moment, ”the hospital said, according to ABC7.

Dr Peter Chin-Hong, professor of medicine and infectious disease expert at UCSF, told the newspaper that the suit “was probably acting like an air motor in a huge way. It’s like a fan that’s a bit multidirectional and random.

The hospital is currently conducting a contact tracing to determine if other staff, patients or visitors may have been exposed to the virus.

It also introduced weekly testing for its staff.

The hospital emergency department is always open and safe to receive patients, and all areas of the ward are being thoroughly cleaned, while those infected are in isolation.

Nearly 40,000 health workers from Kaiser Permanente have already received COVID-19 vaccines and more are expected soon.

California hit a new daily record for new coronavirus cases on Monday, with more than 74,000, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

The Golden State also marked its sixth-highest record on record with 379 dead on Monday.

A total of 2.45 million cases have been recorded and 27,003 have died in California.

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