Universal screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection among pregnant women at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Queens, New York

PLoS One. 2020 Dec 10;15(12):e0238409. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0238409. eCollection 2020.


Background: 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.

Methods and findings: We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study. All pregnant women admitted to the L&D Unit of Elmhurst Hospital from March 29, 2020 to April 22, 2020 were included for analysis. The primary outcomes of the study were: (1) SARS-CoV-2 positivity among universally screened pregnant women, stratified by demographic characteristics, maternal comorbidities, and delivery outcomes; and (2) Symptomatic or asymptomatic presentation at the time of testing among SARS-CoV-2 positive women. A total of 126 obstetric patients were screened for SARS-CoV-2 between March 29 and April 22. Of these, 37% were positive. Of the women who tested positive, 72% were asymptomatic at the time of testing. Patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were more likely to be of Hispanic ethnicity (unadjusted difference 24.4 percentage points, CI 7.9, 41.0) and report their primary language as Spanish (unadjusted difference 32.9 percentage points, CI 15.8, 49.9) than patients who tested negative.

Conclusions: In this retrospective cross-sectional study of data from a universal SARS-Cov-2 screening program implemented in the L&D unit of a safety-net hospital in Queens, New York, we found over one-third of pregnant women testing positive, the majority of those asymptomatic. 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. The experience at Elmhurst Hospital is instructive for other L&D units serving vulnerable populations and for pandemic preparedness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnant Women
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.