Nine labor and delivery nurses at St. Elizabeth contract COVID-19

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 08:14:18-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

EDGEWOOD. Ky. - They had headaches, body aches, sore throats, upper respiratory issues and fevers. By now, you know what that means.

When nine labor and delivery nurses at St. Elizabeth came down with COVID-19, it turned the usually joyful Family Birth Place into a place of concern.

“It felt like a punch in the gut to be honest with you,” said Vera Hall, St. Elizabeth Healthcare Senior VP and Chief Nursing Executive, “because I find it's my responsibility to make sure we have a safe place for our associates ... the last thing I want is for our associates to become ill.

"Or potentially expose the patients they serve.”

Because of the diagnoses, staffers had to call about 10 families who came in contact with the nurses who were taken ill.

I asked Ellee Humphrey, System Director of Women and Children's Services at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, if any of the mothers worried about their babies being affected.

“Yes. I would be worried, too,” said Humphrey. “They asked great questions: ‘What do I need to look for? Who do I need to call?’ Every single mother was very receptive to our calls.”

St. E told WCPO 9 News that the nine nurses are recovering well after immediate self-quarantine. Their cases emerged in the last week of March.

Hall and Humphrey spoke with us by Zoom and wore masks because they were in the same room.

St. E's staffers say any nurse in a delivery situation would wear an N95 mask with a surgical mask over it. St. Elizabeth has had a policy requiring face covers in all common spaces and patient interactions for 16 days.

“I have every confidence we are doing everything we can to tackle this nasty virus,” Humphrey said, including deep cleaning with multiple mechanisms.

That’s two or three times a shift – not just once or a few times a day, Humphrey said.

Hall said St. E was talking to us about the COVID-19 outbreak among the nurses to teach everyone an important lesson.

“Number one, it's going happen,” Hall said. “We know that our associates are going to be ill, just like the community is ill. Our associates are part of the community."

And they wanted to use their story to remind people to stay home! You can't pass the virus if you don't come into contact with anyone -- including health care workers.

St. Elizabeth employs more than 9,000 people systemwide – including 127 nurses in labor and delivery. As of Tuesday, St. E reported 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases among all of its associates. The nine L and D cases were mild and they should be back to work soon.

I emailed Mercy Health, TriHealth, UC Health and the Christ Hospital to ask how many internal cases they have. Only Christ confirmed having employees who tested positive for COVID-19.

A Christ official said the affected personnel also self-quarantined immediately and the hospital got in touch with their contacts.

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.