Inflatable Costume Might Be Behind Outbreak at California Hospital

“Any exposure, if it had occurred, would have been completely innocent and quite random as the person had no Covid symptoms and was just trying to lift the spirits of those around them during a very stressful time,” Ms. Chavez said of the costumed man Workers.

The emergency room will be thoroughly cleaned, Ms. Chavez said, and in addition to the protocols already in place, staff will be offered free weekly tests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus is mainly spread via respiratory droplets and can be spread “sometimes by airborne transmission” of both larger droplets and smaller aerosols when people “cough, sneeze, sing, speak or breathe” .

Dr. Jose-Luis Jimenez, aerosol expert and professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder, helped investigate the Skagit County choir breakout, which resulted in at least 53 infections and two deaths from a singing practice in Washington state. In an interview on Sunday, he said the outbreak among staff at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center was most likely due to airborne transmission.

“It’s like a choir,” said Dr. Jimenez. “There is no way you can infect 43 people while wearing a costume, except through airborne transmission or aerosols, since you are in a costume and cannot touch objects or infect people through surfaces.”

The hospital is located in Santa Clara County, California, which has confirmed 73,493 coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times database. 2,397,923 cases have been confirmed across California.

According to the Times database, more than 21,000 people were hospitalized in California as of January 1, a 26 percent increase from two weeks earlier.

Christine Hauser contributed to the reporting.

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