corona virus-Covid19

Universal Screening for COVID-19 Among Pregnant Women Finds High Incidence of Asymptomatic Infections Interview with:

Dr. Maru

Sheela Maru, MD, MPH
Department of Health System Design and Global Health and
Arnhold Institute for Global Health and
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai What is the background for this study?

Response: Universal screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection on Labor and Delivery (L&D) units is a critical strategy to manage patient and health worker safety, especially in a vulnerable high-prevalence community. We describe the results of a SARS-CoV-2 universal screening program at the L&D Unit at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY, a 545-bed public hospital serving a diverse, largely immigrant and low-income patient population and an epicenter of the global pandemic.  What are the main findings?

Response: In a retrospective cross-sectional study, we found that more than one-third of almost 130 pregnant women tested positive for the coronavirus. This is a much higher proportion than reported at other hospitals in New York City during the pandemic surge, and likely related to social inequities experienced by the surrounding population. The pregnant patients who tested positive for the coronavirus were more likely to identify as Hispanic and report their primary language as Spanish. The majority, or 72% percent, of the pregnant patients who tested positive were asymptomatic and did not display any symptoms associated with COVID-19. These findings reveal early and rampant asymptomatic spread of the disease when most community and hospital testing was limited to symptomatic individuals. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This study is instructive for other labor and delivery units and hospitals across the world as we continue to refine pandemic preparedness. The rationale for universal screening at the L&D Unit at Elmhurst Hospital was to ensure safety of patients and staff during an acute surge in SARS-Cov-2 infections through appropriate identification and isolation of pregnant women with positive test results. Women were roomed by their SARS-CoV-2 status given increasing space limitations. In addition, postpartum counseling was tailored to infection status. We quickly established discharge counseling and follow-up protocols tailored to their specific social needs. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: In future epidemics, it may be prudent to look at labor and delivery screening numbers much earlier on, as pregnant women continue to seek essential care despite social distancing measures and also represent the general young and healthy community population.

Any disclosures? No disclosures or competing interests.


Maru S, Patil U, Carroll-Bennett R, Baum A, Bohn-Hemmerdinger T, Ditchik A, et al. (2020) Universal screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection among pregnant women at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Queens, New York. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0238409.

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Last Updated on December 13, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD