Kaiser Employee Remembers Colleague Who Died From COVID-19 Complications After Outbreak

A Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center employee on Monday reflected on the loss of a colleague who died from COVID-19 complications after an outbreak in the hospital’s emergency department Christmas Day.

“She was always consistent with a smile and would never show face to the stresses that we go through,” the employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said about their colleague. “Just a tremendous role model for others to follow. It’s just really unfortunate, really sad that this outbreak led to her passing.”

Kaiser would only confirm an employee from the ER died, but fellow employees told NBC Bay Area she was a registration clerk in the emergency department.

The registration clerk had worked in the emergency department Christmas Day. While the exact source of the outbreak, which infected at least 44 employees, is under investigation, Kaiser administrators said an employee wearing an air-powered costume is a likely source. Experts said the fan blowing air into the costume could have circulated the virus as the employee mingled with patients and staff.

But several employees said they’re not convinced the costume is to blame.

“There are a number of other possibilities and, you know, I feel like the investigation was wrapped up almost too quickly and this individual who wore the inflatable Christmas tree is being used as some sort of a scapegoat,” the employee who wished to remain anonymous said. 

Kaiser said all emergency medical staff are being tested and the department is undergoing a deep clean.

Kaiser administrators said Sunday they started calling patients who went to the emergency room Christmas Day about their possible exposure. The hospital has not said how many patients they have contacted or if any of them tested positive.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is also looking into the outbreak.

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