Back to Priority Areas
Patient and Doctor

The McGovern Family

In March 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in New York City, Michelle and Michael McGovern began to experience COVID-19 symptoms. Michelle was seven months pregnant with twins and little was known about COVID-19, especially its effects upon babies and pregnant mothers.

"When I got that first positive COVID test result, it was terrifying,” says Michelle, who tested positive in April 2020 and again when she arrived to give birth, in early May 2020. “All those things that you do to prepare for a pregnancy and make sure that your babies come into the world safely—you don't anticipate a pandemic. Everything was so uncertain.”

But one certainty for the McGoverns was their plan for their twins to be born at Weill Cornell Medicine, where the family had already been receiving medical care. Weill Cornell Medicine had shown an impressive response during the pandemic, treating patients and studying the virus to provide recommendations to medical centers around the world, including ways to treat newborns and their COVID-positive mothers to ensure a healthy delivery. Weill Cornell Medicine was putting patients and families at the center of attention, even during a time of great distress.

There was nowhere else we’d rather be. We saw the physicians, nurses and staff working in real time to make it the safest place for everyone involved. The easiest decision we made at that time was to deliver at Weill Cornell.
Michelle McGovern

“We were scared to go to the hospital, but once we were there, it was a smooth and safe process,” Mike adds. “Despite the stressful circumstances, everyone was still very warm and caring.”

Advancements in pediatric infectious diseases surrounding COVID-19 were being made quickly at Weill Cornell Medicine, including studies around transmission of the virus from mother to child. Dr. Christine Salvatore, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, was one of the first physicians in the nation to describe the risks for new mothers with COVID-19 and create recommendations for care based on groundbreaking findings. 

With her newfound knowledge, Dr. Salvatore created the Newborn COVID Clinic, the first of its kind in the country, where nearly 700 COVID-positive pregnant women and their newborns—including the McGovern family—have been cared for since last spring.

Utilizing findings from studying the first COVID-positive women and their babies, protocols were quickly implemented such as mothers wearing masks while breastfeeding and frequent hand- and breast-washing, which made it safer for babies to remain in their mothers’ rooms, avoiding the trauma of separation.

We demonstrated, through our data, that none of the babies became infected by the COVID-positive mother when using the precautions we developed. It was a safe practice to allow babies in the same room as the mom and to allow the mom to breastfeed, even upon returning home, giving moms assurance they could be with their babies.
Dr. Christine Salvatore

The clinic continues to monitor the health of the baby after the family is discharged, through repeated COVID testing for the newborn at one and two weeks after birth, which also advances Weill Cornell Medicine’s research studies.

The McGoverns’ twins’ birth went smoothly and their girls are now healthy and thriving.

We wanted our daughters, our son, and us to have the best care. When the twins were born, things were really bad—the streets were totally empty except for ambulances. Now, we’re a healthy family. We couldn't have done that without Weill Cornell Medicine.
Michelle McGovern