January 5, 2021

Around the nation: An 'air-powered' Christmas costume may have caused a deadly coronavirus outbreak

Daily Briefing

    Officials at the facility say an "air-powered" Christmas costume likely caused a coronavirus outbreak that resulted in at least 43 of its staff members testing positive for the coronavirus, as well as one Covid-19 death, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from California, the District of Columbia, and Illinois.

    • California: Officials at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center said an "air-powered" Christmas costume likely caused a coronavirus outbreak at the facility that resulted in at least 43 of its staff members testing positive for the coronavirus between Dec. 27, 2020, and Jan. 1, as well as one Covid-19 death. Hospital officials said an employee walked through the medical center on Christmas wearing a Christmas tree costume that inflated via an interior fan. Experts say the fan could have spread respiratory droplets containing the novel coronavirus throughout the hospital's ED. "Any exposure, if it occurred, would have been completely innocent, and quite accidental, as the individual [wearing the costume] had no [Covid-19] symptoms and only sought to lift the spirits of those around them during what is a very stressful time," Irene Chavez, SVP and area manager of Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center, said. "If anything, this should serve as a very real reminder that the [coronavirus] is widespread, and often without symptoms, and we must all be vigilant." Chavez added that the hospital is investigating the outbreak and using contact tracing to notify employees and patients who may have been exposed to the virus. In addition, Chavez said all ED staff are being tested for the novel coronavirus, and the hospital's ED is undergoing a deep clean. Further, Chavez said Kaiser Permanente has now banned air-powered costumes at its facilities (Peiser, "Morning Mix," Washington Post, 1/4; Li, Los Angeles Times, 1/4; Madani, NBC News, 1/3).
    • District of Columbia: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week ruled against hospital groups seeing to block CMS' hospital price transparency rule. The rule, which took effect Jan. 1, requires hospitals to publish the prices they negotiate with insurers for many health care services. The American Hospital Association (AHA), one of the groups that challenged the rule, in a statement said although hospitals "support the goal of increasing price transparency" in health care, they were "disappointed" by the court ruling, because the required price disclosures could "accelerate anticompetitive behavior among commercial health insurers and hinder innovations in value-based care delivery." AHA said it is reviewing the court's ruling "to determine next steps." In addition, the group said it has "urged" President-elect Joe Biden's incoming "administration to evaluate whether the rule should be revised and to exercise enforcement discretion for the duration of" America's coronavirus epidemic (Vaidya, MedCity News, 12/30/20; AHA statement, 12/29/20).
    • Illinois: UChicago Medicine has announced that Adekunle "Kunle" Odunsi will serve as director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, effective March 1. Odunsi, a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in immunotherapy and vaccine therapy in ovarian cancer, will also serve as dean for oncology in the school's biological sciences division and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the school. Odunsi previously served as the deputy director of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. Through his research, Odunsi helped develop antigen-specific vaccine therapy and T-cell immunotherapies aimed at extending remission rates in women with ovarian cancer (Carbajal, Becker's Hospital Review, 12/22).

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