One Dead, 43 Others Infected in San Jose Kaiser Covid Outbreak

A Covid-19 outbreak at San Jose’s Kaiser Permanente Medical Center that infected dozens of staffers and killed one may have stemmed from an air-inflated Christmas tree costume that an employee donned to spread holiday cheer.

Hospital officials say they’re investigating the Christmas Day incident as a potential cause of the 44 coronavirus cases recorded between Dec. 27 and New Year’s Day. They suspect that a fan inside the red-nosed holiday ensemble effectively aerosolized virus-laden droplets, spewing them throughout the emergency department.

Kaiser announced late Sunday that the outbreak took the life of a woman who staffed the ER reception desk. In a broadcast aired that same day, NBC Bay Area quoted employees who described the loss as devastating.

Kaiser Senior Vice President Irene Chavez told the Washington Post that the situation is “highly unusual,” and said the costumed staffer acted on their own without notice or approval. “Any exposure, if it occurred,” she told the newspaper, “would have been completely innocent, and quite accidental, as the individual had no Covid symptoms.”

An unnamed Kaiser employee quoted by NBC, however, suggested another possible cause, saying the outbreak may have been linked to the hospital conducting respiratory treatments in a room that shouldn’t have been used for that purpose.

The Kaiser outbreak comes amid a post-holiday explosion in coronavirus cases throughout California, where hospitalizations rose by 7 percent in just this past week, forcing doctors to ration care for patients with all kinds of health conditions.

In Santa Clara County, public health officials say hospitals have run out of non-intensive-care space while just 10 percent of ICU beds are available as the cumulative case count surpasses 74,000 and death toll approaches 750.

By Dec. 31, healthcare providers in the county had received 40,605 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 54,200 doses of Moderna’s, plus additional deliveries directly to multi-county entities, such as Kaiser and Sutter Health. Additional shipments are expected this week, including second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Thousands of healthcare workers and medical first responders have been vaccinated since mid-December, and those who received their first doses of the vaccine will receive the second dose next week, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, who’s in charge of Covid-19 testing and vaccines for the county’s public health division.

The county is currently in Phase 1a of the vaccine rollout, which includes healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Once vaccinations are complete, it will move on to Phase 1b, which includes frontline workers such as law enforcement, agricultural workers, grocery store staff and others. People aged 75 years and older are also included in this phase.

Fenstersheib said it will be “several months” before the county moves to Phase 2, where everyone not included in the previous phases will be able to get vaccinated.

“As we’re vaccinating people, you still need to wear your mask and still need to follow all the social distancing requirements,” he said. “Having some people vaccinated is not a time to take off your mask and act like the virus is under control.”

Erik Chalhoub and Michael Moore contributed to this report. 

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > In Santa Clara County, public health officials say hospitals have run out of non-intensive-care space while just 10 percent of ICU beds are available as the cumulative case count surpasses 74,000 and death toll approaches 750.

    Hospitals have NOT run out of space. The Convention Center was made available as bed SPACE.

    Hospitals are out of ICU staff.

    Hospitals cannot expand their ICU staffing because of AB5 “the gig-worker bill” signed by Gavin Newsom.

    Hospitals CANNOT hire contractors to staff their ICU’s because of AB5.

    “What Is California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5)?

    California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), popularly known as the “gig worker bill,” is a piece of legislation signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2019. It went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees, with a few exceptions.”

    Blame Gavin Newsom.

    Recall Gavin Newsom.


    > Because of malpractice and negligence insurance issues.

    You make my case:

    “Malpractice and negligence insurance issues” are legal and bureaucratic issues created by lobbyists, crony capitalists, unions, and politicians. The corruptly elected Gavin Newsom could fix these issues with a stroke of the pen.

    You’ve heard of Section 230 which protects giant social media monopolies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter from lawsuits?

    The same could be done for hospitals.

    The “lockdowns” are a political crisis manufactured by “the man behind the curtain”.

  3. > These professions are “licensed” for good cause.

    Speaking of licensure, you have posted some information that I suspect would not pass muster with some licensing boards.

    I’m willing to tolerate a lot of puffery and bluster on the internet from run of the mill doofusses, but if you hold any medical licenses I think the appropriate licensing authorities should take a look at some of your assertions.

    Do you hold any licenses related to the medical or health care fields?

  4. > Epidemiologist Says Influenza Cases Are Being Counted as COVID-19

    > “Influenza has been renamed COVID-19 in large part.”

    “Top epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski says that the massive drop in influenza cases can be attributed to the fact that many are being falsely counted as COVID-19 cases.

    Wittkowski, former Head of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design at Rockefeller University, cautioned that, “Influenza has been renamed COVID-19 in large part.”

    According to CDC figures, the cumulative positive influenza test rate from late September into the week of December 19th was just 0.2%, compared to 8.7% from a year before.

    According to Wittkowski, this is because many flu infections are being incorrectly labeled as coronavirus cases.”

  5. > I do not profess to be an expert, . . .

    > I currently work in a field that requires a Certifications of skills. [But don’t have one.]

    > In the end, I just have that little background, . . . .

    > I don’t need to be a licensed health care professional . . . .

    > I have . . . proven competence in doing “job” analysis, and establishing the best practices regarding staffing. Which in itself makes me an expert in understanding work skill sets required to fill a variety of positions.



    Not very sciency, though. And, really, a “sciency-ist” is not the same as a “scientist” either.

    So, if you’re not licensed, I guess there is no point in my reporting you to the medical licensing authorities for your ignorance about immunology, viruses, or population immunity.

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