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San Jose Kaiser hospital fined $43,000 for deadly post-holiday coronavirus outbreak

SAN JOSE — Kaiser Permanente has been fined $43,000 for failing to report a deadly coronavirus outbreak that may have been caused by an inflatable holiday costume worn by an unknowingly infected staffer on Christmas Day.

The number of cases linked to the outbreak at the Kaiser San Jose Emergency Department has reached 60 personnel as of Thursday, said Santa Clara County's public health department, and one staffer has died.

County officials said the department learned of the infections through press statements issued this week by the Oakland-based hospital chain. Kaiser is responsible for timely reporting of cases, the county said.

Kaiser Permanente spokeswoman Hilary Costa said Friday that the company is reviewing the notice. The penalty breaks down to $1,000 for each of the initial 43 cases.

The positive cases may stem from a blow-up costume worn by an infected staffer who briefly visited the department Dec. 25. Such costumes usually rely on battery-operated fans to suck air into the costume to keep its shape. COVID-19 spreads through droplets, which is why investigators are looking into the air circulation function of the fan.

County officials say that the outbreak strain is not the new and more contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

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