A health care system in New York is no longer allowing visitors, including partners, for its patients about to give birth, citing coronavirus risk.
"For the time being, we really do need to exclude all visitors, including partners, for women admitted in labor," Dr. Dena Goffman, chief of obstetrics at Columbia University Medical Center, said Sunday during a daily leadership briefing for the NewYork-Presbyterian health care system.
Goffman described the move as a "very difficult decision and not one taken lightly."
NewYork-Presbyterian has also made the decision to test all women in labor who are admitted to labor and delivery units for Covid-19, regardless of symptoms.
Goffman said there had been a number of patients with little to no symptoms upon admission, and others with atypical symptoms, who were later found to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Moreover, "many symptoms of labor and of pregnant women really mimic some of the symptoms of Covid-19," including fatigue and shortness of breath, she added.
"As a result, these women were not identified by our usual screening, infection prevention and control, or testing processes, and therefore our practices for protection for Covid-19 were not implemented. In this case, many staff members were exposed," Goffman said.
Testing women in labor, she added, would allow doctors to isolate newborns who may have been exposed to the virus, thus preventing outbreaks in neonatal ICUs and well-baby nurseries.
Absent in-person visitors for these patients, Goffman said the hospital system was looking into ways to allow families to participate virtually in childbirth, perhaps through tablet computers.
"We recognize that we will need to provide additional support for moms, as well as mom and baby pairs, as they're in the hospital through the duration of their stay," she said.