We know there are many questions among our patients and in our communities about the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The current surge of people who are testing positive – including among our own employees, has created some challenges.
While Omicron has proven less lethal and dangerous than earlier versions of the COVID virus, it is more contagious, causing high numbers of infections and sick or concerned individuals.
Our clinics and call centers are receiving an incredibly high volume of messages and calls, at a time when we are experiencing staffing shortages. Response times may be delayed. We apologize for the delays, appreciate your understanding,
and continue to work to increase capacity and respond to the needs of our patients.
I have symptoms that I think might be COVID. Do I need a test?
If you have symptoms, you should get tested. There are many testing venues offered by UTMB, by county and state health partners, and by other care providers. You can also use a home testing kit (often called antigen tests), if locally available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted information about home testing.
Please do not visit our emergency rooms to get a COVID-19 test.
We continue to offer testing from our urgent care clinics (which offer extended hours) and primary care sites. All testing at UTMB is by appointment. Schedule your COVID test online.
I have been in close contact with someone who has COVID. What does this mean?
“Close contact” refers to time you spent directly with an infected person. This means you were within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period. If you have been in close contact with an infected
person, you are at risk of infection regardless of vaccination status and should take precautions (such as masking and social distancing). Get tested if you develop symptoms (fully vaccinated), and/or if you are unvaccinated or in high-risk category,
regardless of symptoms.
I am a UTMB employee or student and may have COVID symptoms or exposure. What should I do?
Because of the role we play in maintaining and addressing the health of the community, we’ve prepared some detailed guidelines and protocols for our UTMB healthcare workforce and trainees, as well as for non-clinical employees and students. Please
review these guidelines on testing requirements, isolation, masking, returning to work/school and more on our employee and student focused COVID web pages.
I tested negative after an exposure. What should I do?
If you tested negative with a home test, follow the current CDC guidelines related to quarantine and other testing. If
you develop symptoms, you should test again. If a home antigen test is negative and you have symptoms, public health experts recommend getting a PCR test or testing yourself again with a home test after a few days.
I tested positive at home. Do I need to get a PCR test?
If you use a home testing kit and test positive, you have COVID-19. You do not need a PCR test for confirmation. Please start home isolation immediately and notify your close contacts of your positive test so they may take the appropriate precautions.
Am I at high risk for severe COVID-19?
High-risk conditions for severe COVID-19 include undergoing treatment for cancer, currently taking medications for transplant, or taking immunosuppressant medications for other conditions. Other high-risk conditions, including having chronic lung, kidney,
or liver disease; diabetes; HIV; obesity; and age 65 years or older, may pre-dispose you to worse symptoms from COVID-19 or influenza. The CDC has more information about high risk conditions online.
I tested positive. I’m not at high risk for severe disease. I’m worried about my symptoms. What should I do?
Mild Symptoms – Stay home and isolate
Mild symptoms are a temperature below 100.4 degrees (below 102.4 degrees for children older than 3 months), aches and pains, or a mild cough. If you have these symptoms, stay at home and isolate. Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and monitor
your symptoms. Hopefully you will start feeling better within a few days. You do not need to contact your doctor to let them know you have COVID.
Moderate Symptoms – Call Your UTMB Health Care Provider
If you have moderate symptoms like a fever higher than 100.4 degrees, significant coughing, or shortness of breath, contact your primary care provider’s office,
a UTMB Urgent Care clinic, or our UTMB Access Center.
For children ages 3 months and older who are not immunocompromised, a high fever is greater than 102.4 degrees. If your child has a fever, significant coughing or shortness of breath, you should call their primary care provider’s office. You should
also call if they are sleepier, if they have not gone to the bathroom in more than 10 hours (if 3 years or older) or more than 8 hours (if younger than 3 years old). Your child’s doctor can recommend next steps.
Severe Symptoms – Emergency
Go to your nearest emergency department (here are UTMB’s Emergency Departments) if you have severe symptoms such as:
- Severe trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or dizziness
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
If you cannot get to an emergency department, call 9-1-1.
I tested positive and I’m at high risk for severe disease. I am worried about my symptoms.
What should I do?
Call your primary care provider’s office
You may be eligible for outpatient COVID treatment. Because we have limited supplies of these therapies, they are being reserved for those at greatest risk.
For example, monoclonal antibody therapy (mAB), can help fight the infection. You are eligible if you are at high risk for severe COVID-19, have a positive lab-verified COVID test and are within 2-8 days of starting symptoms.
Read more about UTMB COVID treatment and therapies.
Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for Pfizer’s Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets) and Merck’s molnupiravir. These are pills that can be used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19. Paxlovid is available for adults and children 12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kilograms/88
pounds. Molnupiravir is for adults only. Both are available by prescription only for patients who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Both should be started as soon as possible after the diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of the start of
symptoms. Participating Walmart pharmacies may have the medications in the area. Learn more on the Walmart Pharmacy COVID page and check your ZIP code for availability.
Please note that the flu is now spreading in our community too. If you have a negative COVID test but have moderate symptoms, including fever and body aches, contact your primary care provider’s office. They may test you for the flu or give you
a medication for the flu, especially if you are in one of the high-risk groups listed above.
Please help us help you. Vaccines have proven to be effective in reducing the severity of COVID and helping avoid hospitalization. If you’ve not been vaccinated, schedule your vaccine and booster now. Wear a mask indoors, and avoid crowded or poorly ventilated places. Practice social distancing (6 ft), cover your cough,
and wash your hands frequently.
We wish you the best of health and will post additional updates as they become available.
The UTMB Health Covid-19 Clinical Task Force