COVID-19 outbreak among healthcare workers at St. Joe’s special care unit for babies

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Special Care Nursery after three healthcare workers tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Public health officials, along with the hospital, confirmed the outbreak in a media release Monday.

“No babies or parents in the unit are symptomatic. All are being monitored closely,” according to the release, adding medical evidence so far shows babies typically experience mild symptoms of COVID-19 and recover.

The nursery provides care for babies “who need extra support and monitoring,” including those that are born up to two months prematurely or have other health concerns including a need for respiratory support or intravenous therapy, says the St. Joe’s website.

A 2013 video produced by St. Joe’s about the unit describes it as a “safe place” where a large team of healthcare professionals make sure babies are cared for.

The video includes a registered nurse who says “infection control is [of the] utmost importance,” and notes parents are asked to wash their hands before touching their baby and when entering or leaving the nursery.

The city says the unit will continue to take in babies born at St. Joe’s who require care.

One of the healthcare workers who tested positive did not have any direct contact with patients or families, says the city. The other two did have some contact while wearing a protective masks.

The two staff members who were in contact with families were not symptomatic while caring for babies, states the release.

“[St. Joe’s] has created a separate space for infants who may have been exposed during this time period,” it reads. “A deep cleaning of the unit is being done, and further infection prevention and control measures are in place.”

Public health says contract tracing is underway to make sure all babies, family and staff who were in contact with the healthcare workers are tested. “Appropriate measures will be taken to limit transmission.”