An employee working the Christmas shift at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center has died after falling ill with COVID-19. The worker was one of at least 43 staff members who tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days, an outbreak possibly linked to a staff member who wore an inflatable holiday costume to lift spirits.

The staff member who appeared briefly in the emergency department Christmas Day wore an air-powered, holiday-themed costume, according to a hospital executive. KNTV-TV, the San Jose NBC station that first reported the outbreak, reported that the costume was an inflatable Christmas tree.

Inflatable costumes are typically battery-powered and use a fan to keep the costume puffed up. But such a fan can also cause virus particles to travel much farther in a room.

KNTV-TV reported that the person who died was a woman who worked as a registration clerk in the emergency department.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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