Pregnant healthcare workers across the country say they are being forced to work directly with patients testing positive for the virus, despite limited data about the effects of covid-19 on pregnancy.
ProPublica was contacted by dozens of nurses and healthcare workers who described the discrepancy in protection between colleagues who test positive and those who don’t. One nurse in a hot-spot area told the outlet that even though a co-worker was tested positive, her hospital has refused to test other workers and to give any staffer who hasn’t tested positive a mask. Another nurse said she was told she would be fired if she stayed home, while another halfway through her pregnancy in an East Coast hospital decided to take maternity leave early out of anxiety over continuing to work.
Initial research on how pregnant women and babies are affected by covid-19 determined that the virus did not transmit to babies in the womb. An early study conducted in Wuhan and published in February studying nine pregnant women in their third trimester who were diagnosed with covid-19 didn’t find evidence for transmission. Another study published in March focusing on 33 newborns born at Wuhan Children’s Hospital found only three of those babies had the virus and mild symptoms.
But both of those studies do not indicate how women early on in their pregnancies may be impacted and more data is needed. CDC guidelines for pregnant women and the virus are also infuriatingly vague. “We still do not know if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus that causes COVID-19 to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery,” the site reads. ProPublica points out that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t even recommend pregnant health care workers be removed from interacting with patients directly. But without paid sick or maternity leave, many pregnant healthcare workers can not turn away work or assignments that put them in direct contact with patients and family members who have the virus. “With all these people around, I don’t know who’s been exposed,” a nurse told the outlet. “The more patients I visit, the more the risk is increasing.”