Hospitals leaned toward strict COVID-19 NICU policies despite low prevalence of infection

October 21, 2020

Two studies examining the impact of COVID-19 on neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) found the prevalence of COVID-19 in NICU infants is low, yet many hospitals at the start of the pandemic put in place strict parental visitation policies and scaled back NICU services such as lactation support and therapy.

In "Longitudinal Survey of SARS-CoV-2 Burden and Related Policies in US Neonatal Intensive Care Units," published in the American Journal of Perinatology, researchers, including Ashley Darcy-Mahoney, associate professor of nursing at the George Washington University and Pediatrix-affiliated neonatal nurse practitioner, conducted a series of cross-sectional surveys of U.S. NICUs between early March 2020 and late May 2020 during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, and more recently between mid July 2020 and early August 2020. They found: The new study aligns closely with a study published at the end of August by Darcy-Mahoney and her co-authors in the Journal of Perinatology. In "Impact of restrictions on parental presence in neonatal intensive care units related to coronavirus disease 2019," the researchers surveyed 277 facilities globally in April 2020. They found:

"Ultimately, as health care systems attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, new policies have led to families interacting very differently with their infants in the NICU--or not at all. These rapidly instituted changes may carry with them the risk of secondary unintended consequences" - Ashley Darcy-Mahoney, associate professor of nursing at the George Washington and Pediatrix-affiliated neonatal nurse practitioner


To schedule an interview with Darcy-Mahoney, please contact Timothy Pierce at

George Washington University

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