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Northwell Health testing all mothers-to-be for COVID-19 

Northwell Health has opened a drive-thru COVID-19 testing

Northwell Health has opened a drive-thru COVID-19 testing center for pregnant women who have a scheduled delivery at either North Shore University Hospital or the Katz Women's Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Credit: Northwell Health

Northwell Health said Tuesday it is testing all delivering mothers for COVID-19 before they give birth.

The health system, which operates 11 hospitals on Long Island, has opened a drive-thru in Lake Success for pregnant women who have a scheduled delivery at the Katz Women's Hospital at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

"It's a precaution, but we need to keep the moms who test positive away from the moms who test negative," said Dr. Michael Nimaroff, executive director of OB-GYN services at Northwell. "A lot of the women who have tested positive are asymptomatic."

Expectant moms at other Northwell hospitals are tested when they come in to deliver.

Nimaroff said the care for newborns is adjusted based on the mother's test results.

If a new mom is asymptomatic, the newborn is generally kept 6 feet away from the mother, although breastfeeding is all right, he said.

However, a mother who is showing symptoms must be isolated from her child.

The COVID-19 test results help guide nurses and other medical professionals in how they'll care for patients.

For example, maternity nurses have been wearing personal protective equipment, or PPE, because they've had to assume every delivering mother is a COVID-19 carrier. 

"We are able to preserve some of the PPEs in cases where women are negative," Nimaroff said.

Every health system in the region has also severely limited who can visit patients in the maternity area and elsewhere, amid the virus outbreak.

Northwell allows one person, often a partner, to join a delivering mother at the birth of a child. 

Two Manhattan-based health systems, Mount Sinai and NewYork-Presbyterian, in late March banned anyone from accompanying delivering mothers as a safety precaution. But that policy was reversed after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo voiced his disagreement.