Baby in isolation after Alabama NICU nurse tests positive for coronavirus, family says

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Emmarie Grace Waltman put in isolation after a nurse tested positive for COVID-19. (Credit: Brandon Waltman via CNN)

(CNN) — When Brandon Waltman went to visit his newborn baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit of an Alabama hospital Monday night, he was told she had been placed in isolation.

His daughter Emmarie Grace Waltman has been in the NICU of the University of South Alabama Women’s Hospital for the past month. After a nurse recently tested positive for COVID-19, Waltman said, he was told that as a precaution, Emmarie was taken to another room and put in isolation.

After watching the news about the spread of the virus over the last few weeks, Waltman says he wasn’t surprised.

“I felt like it was inevitable,” he said.

Gary Mans, an associate vice president for Marketing and Communications at USA Health, said in a statement that a staff member within the health system had tested positive, but declined to say in which department.

“A USA Health employee has tested positive for COVID-19. USA Health continues to implement all state and national guidelines to ensure we protect our patients, providers and staff,” said Mans.

Older adults and those with chronic conditions are most vulnerable to the virus, but young adults are catching and spreading it as well. Fortunately, children are not developing severe symptoms, said Dr. Arthur Reingold, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Emmarie was born Feb. 20 and was in the NICU for issues associated with feeding, her father said. With the number of people caring for her and running tests, Waltman and his wife talked about the likelihood of exposure.

Now the parents can only visit Emmarie one at a time in a low-pressure room in order to prevent any potential spread of COVID-19.

“It’s rough. But today is about pushing so some of this doesn’t happen again to her or God forbid anybody else,” Waltman said.

Waltman says that in the weeks his daughter has been in the NICU, he’s seen some doctors and nurses consistently wearing masks and gloves, while others are only wearing them some of the time.

As the number of coronavirus cases grows, top healthcare officials have said the U.S. does not have enough protective equipment stockpiled to meet the anticipated need of the healthcare system. Doctors and nurses have been scrambling to get what they need to keep themselves and their patients safe.

According to the hospital’s website, all visitors are screened for symptoms and possible exposure and the visitor policy was recently changed to limit one visitor per patient at a time for all patients.

Waltman is anxious to get his daughter home to Mississippi to quarantine together as a family, but he isn’t sure when Emmarie will be released. The family’s home is about an hour away from the hospital.

“With the times being like they are, we feel like we’re better left at home where we know who’s coming in contact with her,” he said.

For now, he says his daughter isn’t showing any symptoms of COVID-19, and he hopes it’ll stay that way.

“I don’t think she’s going to test positive,” he says. “She’s one of the probably the biggest and the healthiest babies in the NICU.”

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