The pregnant woman swore that her husband was healthy and should be at the hospital for the birth of their child. But soon after she welcomed their baby into the world, she started to exhibit symptoms linked to the novel coronavirus.
With the woman ill and doctors scrambling to contain any potential spread inside the maternity wing of Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, the husband recently acknowledged to the hospital staff that there was something he had not disclosed: He had been exposed to the coronavirus and was showing symptoms.
On Tuesday, the University of Rochester Medical Center announced the couple and the newborn baby “were asked to quarantine, pending test results, to protect the community” sometime within the past week.
The family, who has yet to be identified, has been discharged from the hospital, UR Medicine said.
“After the mother exhibited symptoms, and the OB team learned that the partner had been exposed to COVID-19 and was symptomatic, the patient was tested and all staff who had been in contact were informed of their possible exposure,” UR Medicine said in a statement.
Due to privacy laws, it remains unclear whether the couple or the baby had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, which first reported the story. UR Medicine said no staff members who worked with the couple inside their private maternity room had tested positive.
UR Medicine did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday, but Chip Partner, a spokesman for the medical center, told the Democrat and Chronicle he would not speculate as to why the symptomatic man did not tell the hospital he had been exposed to the coronavirus.
The potential exposure inside a maternity ward in Rochester comes as some hospitals nationwide have started to adopt no-visitor policies for women giving birth, The Washington Post reported.
The practice of banning visitors from labor and delivery rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had been accelerated in some private hospitals in New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States with more than 76,000 confirmed cases and 1,550 deaths as of early Wednesday.
But after two major New York City hospital systems banned partners and family during labor and delivery, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, ordered on Saturday that all hospitals in the state allow women to have a partner present during birth.
Compared to some of its peers, Strong Memorial took a similar but somewhat lenient approach to visitors. Upon entry, visitors were asked two questions, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. The first was if they were in good health. The other was whether they been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus.
“It was purely an honor system before,” Partner said to the newspaper.
In response to the incident, however, Partner said the hospital is now requiring a temperature check for visitors upon entry, as well as every 12 hours that the person is still there.
Under existing policy, staff members are allowed to work as long as they are checked for COVID-19 symptoms throughout the course of the day. While the couple was at the hospital, officials said staff members were allowed to continue working while masked, monitored for symptoms, and had their temperatures checked twice daily.
While no staff members who worked with the couple tested positive for COVID-19, Barbara Ficarra, a UR Medicine spokesperson, told NBC News that a nurse did experience respiratory illness after being around the family. However, she ended up testing negative for the coronavirus.
The medical center emphasized the adjusted visitor restrictions reflect the urgency of the pandemic.
“Our health care team understands how important it is to pregnant patients to have a support person with them during labor, and therefore, additional safeguards have been added to allow this to continue safely,” UR Medicine said in a statement. “We will continue to weigh all the medical evidence available to continue to make the best possible decision for all our patients, visitors, and staff.”
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