At least 43 staff members at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Emergency Department have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past week. The unlikely culprit for the explosive outbreak? An inflatable Christmas costume.

COVID-19 can live for quite a bit on various surfaces, particularly porous or textured ones like textiles and papers. (Though as we're learning: certain variants of coronavirus can live for either hours or days outside of the body, depending on the strain.) But the most common carrier for COVID-19 continues to be airborne respiratory droplets — so one might surmise that allowing someone to wear an air-powered holiday costume inside an emergency might be a recipe for disaster.

“A staff member did appear briefly in the emergency department on Dec. 25th wearing an air-powered costume,” said Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser’s San Jose Medical Center, to the Chronicle. “ 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.”

This past week, it was confirmed 43 staff members at the South Bay emergency room have tested positive for the novel respiratory disease. Among the infected include on-site physicians, nurses, technicians, and medical assistants. As Chavez notes, individuals with confirmed positive results — as well as those who might have been in contact with the disease — have been asked to follow strict isolation protocols.

Thankfully, because Kaiser Permanente’s health care workers are offered weekly COVID-19 testing, the outbreak appears to have been quickly recognized and allowed for various containment strategies to fall into place in a timely manner; that wasn't so much the case for the Orinda and Laguna Honda skilled nursing facilities during the pandemic’s infancy, however.

“All our health care workers will be offered weekly testing for COVID-19 and expedited testing for anyone with symptoms or exposure to a person with COVID-19,” Chavez continued. “Masks are required in all areas and we are further re-configuring our processes and common spaces, such as staff break rooms, to limit any staff gatherings.”

Suffice to say she, too, added that they will no longer allow air-powered costumes in the building (for now obvious reasons).

According to Chavez, some 40,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers in the Bay Area have received coronavirus vaccinations, with additional rollouts — including the second round of doses coming to Santa Clara County health care workers who are working in the region's COVID-19 epicenter — in the future.

Though Moderna, the only pharmaceutical company allowed to distribute its vaccine for "emergency use" by the FDA, requires its vaccine to be administered in two doses, studies are showing that even a single dose proves quite efficacious.

Related: Orinda Nursing Home Now Has 49 COVID Cases; Laguna Honda Has 16 [April of 2020]

New Outbreak at Laguna Honda Infects 50 and Counting, Kills 3 Elderly Residents

Teachers, Police, and Food Service Workers Could Be Next to Get COVID Vaccine in California

Image: Courtesy of Getty Images via Maksim Tkachenko