Inflatable Costume May Be Behind Outbreak at California Hospital

An air-powered, inflatable costume, worn by a staff member on Christmas to spread holiday cheer, may be to blame for a coronavirus outbreak that infected dozens of workers in a hospital in San Jose, Calif., a hospital spokeswoman said.

An employee wore the costume “briefly” in the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center, the spokeswoman, Irene Chavez, said in a statement. The hospital began an investigation after 44 staff members tested positive for the coronavirus between Dec. 27 and Friday, she said.

Inflatable costumes are usually powered by a battery-operated fan that sucks air into the suit, helping it keep its shape. T. rex and sumo wrestler models are among the more popular. Some costumes cover the wearer’s face while others leave it exposed.

Ms. Chavez declined to say what kind of air-powered costume the hospital employee wore, but she described it as “holiday themed.” NBC Bay Area reported on Sunday night that it was a Christmas tree costume, with a red nose, a smile and a large pair of eyes.

As part of its response to the outbreak, Ms. Chavez said, the hospital was looking into “whether the costume, which did have a fan, was a