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.

23 Comments

  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.

    https://www.investopedia.com/california-assembly-bill-5-ab5-4773201

    “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.

  2. Notice how the deceased was termed ‘staffer’ and not employee?

    Also, the age or any co-morbidities of the deceased might be considered important info to share.

    Was this one of those 80 yr old ladies that volunteer in the lobby and are almost a caricature?

    If this is the case, why are people at such risk allowed to be put in harm’s way?

  3. You cannot be serious.

    A Convention Center will NEVER be a hospital. Simply because it is not sanitary, nor have the necessary equipment and resources to make it one. It was a foolish idea except for the use of being an backup resource for non-infectious, and non critical care patients.

    In other words, maybe for those with fractures and common care like rehabilitation from appendectomies or that kind of care. But in no way is it appropriate for Critical Care facilities.

    THe problem is that most hospitals are provided systems to provide O2, as well as health monitoring equipment, and other infrastructural parts built INTO the building. So you just cant take a non-critical care room and MAKE it one, it doesn’t have the required parts to support it. Especially if you need to provide a “clean room” environment.

    I am familiar with that with my experience in biohazard level 4 medical labs and cpu chip manufacturing.

    So many people ASSUME it is so easy to create the kind of facilities to deal with an airborne infectious agent, but most are simply without a clue. Instead too many just think, that you throw a dollar in and it is delivered within 48 hours.

    It is frustrating to see people like this, but how well the public is educated about these things makes it so easy for the public to get the wrong ideas. Tee facts are most people only expect to go to the hospital and get a magic pill/shot or operation and go home as if nothing happened.

  4. By the way it was an EMPLOYEE that was “patient zero” in this case.

    AB5 has nothing to do with the shortage of ICU staffing.

    You should learn what is called “Just In Time” operations management. This has been the model for practically all business in the U.S. The model works like this, when supplies and tools are purchased and products and services are “resourced” they are done only to fulfill an predicted need. But no excess is ordered ever, so as to prevent excess cost and increase operational profit.

    That is why we have a shortage of supplies, tools, and providers in the healthcare system. In fact prior to the COVID problem, the skilled nurses and such were ALREADY overworked, understaffed, and underpaid, and thus no one wanted to do that work. So that caused no one to want to get trained for the work, and in effect created a chronic shortage of health care service providers, especially Critical Care nurses.

    In the end you are just expressing the fact that you have no say or control over COVID, and in fact we ALL don’t. And since so many people got used to the AMAZON way which is you can go online and within 2 days get what you want for practically anything lighter than 20 pounds. The Medical system doesn’t work that way.

    You can in effect put down everyone you want, but you aren’t doing anything to help the situation in any way. In fact your making it worse.

  5. Finally lets put this CONTRACTING to bed for good.

    THE HOSPITALS CANNOT CONTRACT THIS KIND OF WORK ANYWAY .

    Because of malpractice and negligence insurance issues.

    They cannot divert ANY liability of care to a subcontractor in the MEDICAL PROVIDING SPHERE.

    You all cannot even think that a contractored nurse will be able to have that kind of insurance nor the contracting company.

    Talking about a situation where you could have a BAD or INCOMPETENT nurse travel from state to state causing all kind of damage, and they keep getting work, but leaving people injured or dead?

    There is NO FEDERAL regulations to establish a nationwide protective program regarding this. And the STATES cannot do it themselves

  6. Steve Goldstein, I’m with you on nearly every point, but contract or traveling nursing is a profession—thank goodness—and travel nurses have been providing care and propping up a thinned hospital workforce for decades.

    NPR runs stories about traveling nurses caring for patients during the pandemic.

    https://www.npr.org/2020/12/31/952172094/juan-ramirez-on-the-life-of-a-traveling-nurse-during-a-pandemic

    https://www.npr.org/2020/11/29/939902439/traveling-crisis-nurse-fears-post-holiday-covid-19-surge

    Really sad about what happened at the Kaiser ER. As more details tumble out, it seems like the inflatable holiday costume was more coincidental to the outbreak than the cause of it.

  7. > THE HOSPITALS CANNOT CONTRACT THIS KIND OF WORK ANYWAY .

    > 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”.

  8. Actually,

    These professions are “licensed” for good cause. You cannot have people working as medical professionals without the appropriate license to practice in the state. It looks like at least these nurses must have had a CA State Nursing License, otherwise if not those Nurses may have admitted practicing without one?

    If you don’t have licensure laws, than you don’t have “qualified” workers.

    SJOUTSIDETHE BUBBLE, if we told hospitals that they were immune of malpractice or neglect lawsuits, the patients would be at great risk of not getting proper care.

    I am against section 230 because it was so poorly written leaving a gaping hole of accountability regarding false information, This law in effect allows so much abuse in the internet it isn’t funny, did you watch 60 minutes on Sunday?

    In any case, you keep on trying to misdirect the fact that so many people are not living responsibly and anting to put all the blame of them on Either Gavin, Newsom or Dr. Cody. Which is insane because they were in effect told they had to allow unsafe behavior “until” it proved to be dangerous, and now that proof has been established.

    I look forward to people behaving irresponsibly to be held accountable, if it means being put in “protected” custody, so be it. They are a threat to themselves and others by their actions.

  9. > 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?

  10. SJ,

    I do not profess to be an expert, but I did lab work at the Harvard School of Public Health when I was in high school. My expertise was in using spectrophotometers and spectroflourometers for detection and the measure of proteins.

    I currently work in a field that requires a Certifications of skills.

    My Cousin is a Respiratory Therapist and was the head of a hospital department of it.

    In the end, I just have that little background, however you are just an anonymous person whose only point of view is to put others down, and personally attack everyone that doesn’t agree with you.

    I don’t need to be a licensed health care professional to be aware of many things since I have 2 Bachelors Degrees in Science of Business Administration with the focus on Management Information Systems and Human Resource from the San Jose State University Lucas School of Business, thus having 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.

    In effect your argument made no sense, I am just demonstrating it.

  11. > 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.”

  12. > 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.

    Staffing?

    Amusing.

    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.

  13. SJ,

    Sometimes you should not write anything just because someone said something.

    That PARTICULAR Doctor was recently lambasted because of making false claims in the media you can see the story here ” YouTube censors epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski for opposing lockdown ” (https://nypost.com/2020/05/16/youtube-censors-epidemiologist-knut-wittkowski-for-opposing-lockdown/).

    In fact he has been in the minority regarding the current problems with COVID. In any case, WHERE did those quotes come from? What news report or research did he do to make that claim?

    What is interesting is he isn’t even a medical researcher his education is having Wittkowski, who holds two doctorates in computer science and medical biometry. He nothing but a statistician. He actually does no medical research but he uses statistics to make an argument. He also believes the coronavirus should be allowed to create “herd immunity,” and that short of a vaccine, the pandemic will only end after it has sufficiently spread through the population.

    Thus he wants to let the virus infect, permanently injure or kill as many people it can.

    This is such a bad example of junk science.

    Please we need more than what has been in fact determined a unreliable resource to prove your point?

  14. SJ,

    By the way he lost his position at Rockefeller University — Wittkowski’s employer for 20 years — also released a statement sharply distancing itself from him last month.

    While the doctor might have been too hot for YouTube, he has found a home at the American Institute for Economic Research, which is currently hosting the video online.

    The formal declaration is ” The Rockefeller University releases statement concerning Knut Wittkowski April 13, 2020 ” (https://www.rockefeller.edu/news/27872-rockefeller-university-releases-statement-concerning-dr-knut-wittkowski/) and it stated:

    “The opinions that have been expressed by Knut Wittkowski, discouraging social distancing in order to hasten the development of herd immunity to the novel coronavirus, do not represent the views of The Rockefeller University, its leadership, or its faculty.

    Wittkowski was previously employed by Rockefeller as a biostatistician. He has never held the title of professor at Rockefeller.”

    Which means he never has been a medical researcher of ANY kind. He “misstated” his expertise, and thus frankly destroyed his academic credibility by in effect getting himself FIRED.

    So yes you can see what he said on a private website, because that website has no interest in the public health, but “economics” alone.

    You really think he is an epidemiologist? Actually he NEVER was one. he was a biostatistician.

    Get your story straight before you make false statements, PLEASE?

  15. SJ,

    My field is in Information Security, I am responsible for the proper access, integrity and accuracy of serious data resources. I hold the Gold standard of a CISSP a Certified Information Systems Security Professional recognized INTERNATIONALLY and DOMESTICALLY from the The International Information System Security Certification Consortium. I also have others including proven expertise in securing classified computer resources.

    I also was an instructor in Human Resources teaching under supervision to Masters Degree Students in Human Resources as an undergraduate involving the complex nature of compliance in federal contracting practices with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance. I did this WHILE I was still an undergraduate studying HRM.

    All this is so you can stop trying to distract the readers, or continue to in effect harrass others online simply because we don’t agree with you

    My work has been to provide safety and security on many information resources, both corporate and government.

    So please don’t EVER try to imply I am not recognized as an expert

  16. Steven Goldstein:

    The fact you consider yourself some kind of expert is nearly as frightening as this:

    “I look forward to people behaving irresponsibly to be held accountable, if it means being put in ‘protective’ custody, so be it. They are a threat to others and themselves by their actions.”

    This says so much about you, your expertise and your authority.

    You are so willing to burn witches at the stake. Why not start with Comrades Liccardo, Newsom and Pelosi?
    After all, their irresponsible actions have led to tens of thousands of deaths.

  17. William,

    I guess you never heard of the 5150 standards where one can be INVOLUNTARILY held based on danger to self and others, please read from the page titled “Involuntary Commitment, Conservatorships and Guardianships” here (https://www.stimmel-law.com/en/articles/involuntary-commitment-conservatorships-and-guardianships#:~:text=The%20conditions%20must%20exist%20within,themselves%2C%20usually%20by%20being%20suicidal.) here::

    “Involuntary Commitment, Conservatorships and Guardianships

    5150 Criteria for the Hold:

    The criteria for writing requires probable cause. These include danger to self; danger to others together with some indication, prior to the administering of the hold, of symptoms of a mental disorder; and/or grave disability, as noted below. The conditions must exist within the context of a mental illness.

    Danger to self: The person must be an immediate threat to themselves, usually by being suicidal. Someone who is severely depressed and wishes to die would fall under this category (though they generally have to have expressed a plan to commit suicide and not just a wish to die).

    Danger to others: The person must be an immediate threat to someone else’s safety.

    Gravely disabled:

    Adult (patients over 18 years of age): The person’s mental condition prevents him/her from being able to provide for food, clothing, and/or shelter, and there is no indication that anyone is willing or able to assist him/her in procuring these needs. This does not necessarily mean homeless, as a homeless person who is able to seek housing (even in a temporary shelter) when weather demands it would not fall under this category. Also, the mere lack of resources to provide food, clothing, or shelter is not dispositive; the inability must be caused by the psychiatric condition.”

    The inability of a person to take actions that is WELL KNOWN to be a danger regarding COVID can and should be treated as a psychiatric disorder because they are acting out in the purpose of attempting to do self harm or harm others.

    Believe it r not, this is not a criminal enforcement action but a public health action. It does not constitute a crime unless the actions can be determined to be with the intent of actually doing harm to others, and they can be determined as “legally sane”. They will be held until the 72 hours are over or they are further determined to be a continuing threat to themselves or others. During their “treatement” they are entitled to:

    “Undeniable Rights:

    Under California law, the following rights may never be denied (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 5325.1):

    The right to treatment services which promote the potential of the person to function independently.
    Treatment should be provided in ways that are least restrictive of the personal liberty of the individual.

    The right to dignity, privacy, and humane care.

    The right to be free from harm, including unnecessary or excessive physical restraint, isolation, medication, abuse, or neglect. Medication may not be used as punishment; for the convenience of staff; or as a substitute for, or in quantities that interfere with, the treatment program.

    The right to prompt medical care and treatment.

    The right to religious freedom and practice.

    The right to participate in appropriate programs of publicly supported education.

    The right to social interaction.

    The right to physical exercise and recreational opportunities.

    The right to be free from hazardous procedures.”

    Does this sound like being “mistreated”?

  18. Condescend much?
    Equating Covid with serious mental health custodial holds is desperate and laughable on your part.

    The dangers of Covid are WELL KNOWN by who? You?

    Why is it that so many people test positive and exhibit exactly zero symptoms?

    We have been lied to repeatedly by our elected officials and medical ‘experts’.

    They have lost the trust of those they are supposed to serve.

  19. William you said:

    “Condescend much?

    Equating Covid with serious mental health custodial holds is desperate and laughable on your part.”

    Really, behaving in ways the public has been told over and over again in advertisements, news reports, and medical guidelines and regulations, is clearly sociopathic, and psychopathic behavior, thus it is clearly in the category of significant mental healt problems. You wrote:

    “The dangers of Covid are WELL KNOWN by who? You?”

    As I just pointed out, all you have to do is Google COVID, look at the CDC website, Look at the SCC Department of Health website, look at the Mercury News, Look at KGOTV 7 News, watch CNN, and so on. It is WELL KNOWN and you KNOW it. You wrote:

    “Why is it that so many people test positive and exhibit exactly zero symptoms?”

    That only makes the problem worse because these people may not even connect any odd feelings to COVID and also they SPREAD the infection around. That was a very poor idea to support given the risk to the Public Health. In fact you are right about one thing, WE DON’T KNOW WHO IS ACTUALLY INFECTED OR NOT BECAUSE THE TRRUMP ADMINISTRATION DID NOT PROVIDE ENOUGH TESTING RESOURCES TO SAMPLE THEP UBLIC You wrote:

    “We have been lied to repeatedly by our elected officials and medical ‘experts’.”

    That is just a conclusion with no evidence to back it up. Just like Donald Trump won the election, Just like the fact he just got a poor woman killed in the Capital. Please show evidence that anyone “lied” about COVID, granted that we may still not even know enough about because our research has not be complete. But not knowing and lying are NOT the same. You wrote:

    “They have lost the trust of those they are supposed to serve.”

    Again that is YOUR conclusion, but you have no evidence to prove the majority of people believe in that. Granted many have done some VERY stupid things, Newsom and Pelosi are guilty of that. BUT the MEDICAL EXPERTS are the ones we LISTEN to. And they have never attempted to mislead anyone.

    You are again just trying to stir up a fight, and given what just happened in DC, you are really scary.

  20. Goldstein:
    Fauci is on record as saying ‘walking around with a mask won’t help you’ in March. Later he said that he only said that because he didn’t want the public to panic and buy up all the masks and leave health care workers without protection. So, he LIED and exposed millions of people to Covid. How many deaths are on his hands?

    LA county banned outdoor dining and then gave Hollywood a sweetheart deal so that NBC Television studios could set up an outdoor dining pavilion literally right next door to Angela Marsden’s outdoor dining pavilion. They shut her down and gave an exclusion to NBC. Why is it that Hollywood gets special treatment? Please defend this. You won’t because you can’t.

    I know the CDC has nothing but your best interest at heart when they tell you they would never intentionally hurt anybody right?

    Google ‘Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment’. For forty years, your Lilly-white CDC treated black men for syphilis. The only thing was they were not treating them at all, but monitoring them to see how the disease progressed and ultimately killed thousands of them.

    “And they never attempted to mislead anyone”. Your words.

    Since you are a medical ‘expert’ can you explain to us laypeople what cycle threshold is and why it is so important? Also, why is Florida the only state to require any testing that is done to provide data on the actual cycle numbers in testing for this particular disease?

    It must be so crushing for you to have to wear a mask for the rest of your life. I mean, the annual flu kills hundreds of thousands of people year after year after year. To keep grandma safe you will need to continue to act as if everyone is infected and be super-mindful of living your life in a bubble. Right?

  21. Goldstein: You have the right to be polemic, but I don’t need to dig down to your level. I have started to add the view of an epidemiologist to the discussion with this publication: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.28.20036715 and other public statements are on the Web site below. Since then, a new epidemic from escape strains incubated by lockdowns has demonstrated that they were even more counterproductive than I had assumed. As of now more than 75% of all COVID deaths were created by the lockdowns and with the continuation of lockdowns this proportion will increase.

  22. Goldstein: You have the right to be polemical, but I don’t need to dig down to your level. I have started to add the view of an epidemiologist to the discussion with this publication: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.28.20036715 and other public statements are on the Web site http://www.asdera.com/papers.html . Since then, a new epidemic from escape strains incubated by lockdowns has demonstrated that they were even more counterproductive than I had assumed. As of now more than 75% of all COVID deaths were created by the lockdowns and with the continuation of lockdowns this proportion will increase.

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