Newborn Is Put in Isolation After Her NICU Nurse Tests Positive for the Coronavirus

Emmarie Grace Waltman
CNN International/YouTube

If we've learned anything from the coronavirus so far, it's that the deadly virus spares no one -- not even children, as we'd previously thought. There have no been more than 80,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, and over 1,000 deaths. In New York City, 1 in 4 patients hospitalized with coronavirus are under the age of 50, and doctors and nurses are succumbing to the illness too, as they battle the virus on the front lines with dwindling supplies and a lack of protective gear. Now, a hospital in Alabama is on high alert after a nurse in the NICU ward tested positive for COVID-19 -- going so far as to put several babies she treated in isolation, just in case.

  • According to CNN, one of those babies is Emmarie Grace Waltman, who was born on Thursday, February 20.

    Soon after her birth, the infant was brought to the NICU ward of the University of South Alabama Women’s Hospital, due to some feeding issues.

    By Monday, her father, Brandon Waltman, was informed that his daughter had been moved to a separate low-pressure room as a containment measure. In the days and weeks since, Waltman and his wife have had to visit their daughter one at a time.

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  • The identity and status of the NICU nurse has not been released, CNN reports. 

    Brandon Waltman

    But according to Waltman, he felt it was "inevitable" his daughter's care would ultimately be impacted by the impending threat of the virus. 

    After all, hospitals around the nation are beginning to alter many procedures and protocol -- including some in New York, which have gone so far as to ban partners from delivery rooms and family from visiting.

    But in a statement to CafeMom, the Waltmans shared that they feel more could have been done to protect NICU babies like Emmarie from exposure, which is why they are speaking out now. Currently, she is only one of three or four other babies who are also being isolated under close watch. Had more screening procedures been put in place sooner, though, perhaps none of the babies would be in this position now.

  • For now, the father says his daughter has not shown any signs of the virus, though he's aware that doesn't mean she's out of the woods just yet.

    Brandon Waltman and baby Emmarie
    Brandon Waltman

    The coronavirus has an incubation time of two to 14 days, which means many who contract it have no idea they even have the virus until many days into their illness. By then, it's quite possible they've unwittingly transmitted it to others, which is perhaps the most disturbing part of the contagion.

    And while the number of pediatric coronavirus cases remains relatively low, there are cases.

    In South Carolina, 7-month-old Emmett Doster was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 after his mother noticed something was "off."

    “He woke up from a nap running a fever so we were going to play it out and see," his mom, Courtney Doster, told WGN 9 this week. "But my mom tested positive for the virus as well."

    And just this week, a 3-week-old infant in Long Island, New York, was also diagnosed with the deadly strain -- making the baby the youngest known COVID-19 patient in the US.

  • Luckily, in both their cases, the babies are reportedly stable, and have both been allowed to return home to recuperate. 

    The same cannot be said for a 12-year-old named Emma, who is reportedly "fighting for her life" in an Atlanta hospital.

    "The patient remains in isolation, and we have consistently used appropriate precautions," Jessica Pope, a spokeswoman for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta-Scottish Rite Hospital, told CNN. "Additional details will not be released due to patient privacy laws."

  • As for the Waltman family, they're doing their best to remain calm under the circumstances.

    “It’s rough," Brandon told CNN. "But today is about pushing so some of this doesn’t happen again to her or God forbid anybody else."

    Still, they're hoping they can bring their daughter home to Mississippi soon, so the family can at least self-isolate together, rather than apart.

    “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 told the news outlet.

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