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NICU baby in isolation after a nurse who cared for her tested positive for coronavirus, family says

Some hospitals ban spouses from delivery room

On Monday, a father arrived at University of South Alabama Children's and Women's Hospital to visit his newborn baby in the neonatal intensive care unit. But when he arrived, he said, she wasn't there.

Brandon Waltman told AL.com his newborn daughter, Emmarie Grace, was moved into isolation after a nurse at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Every baby she cared for would be isolated, he said. 

Emmarie Grace was born on February 20 and was refusing to eat, Waltman told the outlet. So, after a week at home, her parents took her to a nearby hospital in Mississippi before she was transferred to University of South Alabama Children's and Women's. 

Now, the Waltmans say they're worried she could have coronavirus. "We thought it couldn't get much worse. But now it's just like everything is piling on," Waltman told AL.com. 

So far, Emmarie Grace has not showed symptoms, he said. "I don't really think she's been infected, but I do think they should have been a little more proactive," Waltman said.

While a small percentage of hospitalized coronavirus patients are under the age of 20, children are not immune to the disease and can still catch – and spread – coronavirus. The symptoms are similar in children and adults, but children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms including fever, runny nose, and cough, the CDC said.

Johns Hopkins Medicine says children with COVID-19 are more likely to have milder symptoms than adults, for reasons that are not yet understood. "Children with underlying health conditions such as asthma or poorly-controlled diabetes may be more at risk for severe symptoms," according to Johns Hopkins. 

Waltman's newborn does have a medical condition, and recently had surgery to insert a feeding tube, he said. The dad added that he hoped the hospital would take stronger preventative measures during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The hospital did limit visits to one parent at a time, Waltman said — but he added that no one checked him or his wife for symptoms. "What's the other parent supposed to do?" Waltman said. "It just makes more sense for both of us to be isolated in her room."

The family plans to take her home to Mississippi, where they will all self-quarantine together. "We love our little girl and want to make sure she is as healthy and happy as possible," Waltman said.

In an email to CBS News, the hospital confirmed an employee tested positive for COVID-19. "USA Health continues to implement all state and national guidelines to ensure we protect our patients, providers and staff," the company said in a statement. 

The Waltmans did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment. 

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