Coronavirus (COVID-19) UTMB Daily Update

As of 1 p.m., March 18, 2020

Mar 18, 2020, 14:12 PM by COVID-19 Communications

NEW UPDATES

  • UTMB is on Emergency Status effective immediately, consistent with declarations at the local and state level.

      • All employees are considered Essential for this emergency.
      • Employees may be reassigned to different locations, shifts and/or duties to preserve our health care mission.
      • Employees working remotely may be recalled to a campus as needs dictate.
      • Employees should continue with their current duties until informed otherwise.
      • Health care workers who are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 have the option to opt out of performing high-risk activities if the health care worker:
        • Is immunocompromised, has had an organ transplant, has poorly controlled diabetes or is undergoing chemotherapy;
        • Is pregnant;
        • Cares for an immunocompromised individual residing in the employee’s household; or
        • Is age 70 or older with comorbidity, such as hypertension, diabetes, or COPD.

    Please be advised that these conditions apply only to the employee, not to household members.

    To request a job modification, the health care worker should notify the supervisor, who will work with UTMB’s ADA Office to identify appropriate solutions. The ADA Office can be reached at (409)747-4818 or hrada@utmb.edu.

      • Scheduled leave that was approved by March 18, 2020, will be honored. New leave requests should be reviewed and approved by the area Vice President.
      • The Guidelines for Managers are being updated. Check the document regularly.
      • Hospitals and clinics remain open. See reminders below for information on postponement of elective procedures and telehealth options for ambulatory appointments.
    • Multiple updates for students and teaching faculty (see this section of the COVID website for details):
      • UTMB shifting courses and clerkships to remote and online instruction only, beginning March 23 until further notice.
      • Health Education Center and Moody Medical Library will be closed to student activity.
      • Education materials will be available online.
      • Student lounge in Old Red will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
      • Students will receive further guidance from the Dean’s office at your respective school regarding plans for continuing to matriculate in your program.
    • Consistent with guidance from Texas Health and Human Services, UTMB will begin screening faculty and staff entering a hospital location on March 19. This is in addition to continued screening of patients and visitors. Plan for possible delays in entering buildings. See this page for details.
    • Information Services has developed important instructions for those who are telecommuting, to ensure work-related information remains secure. See this page for details.
    • Continue to practice social distancing at work (to the extent possible) and at home.

GENERAL STATUS

  • UTMB now on Emergency Status. See details above.
  • Telecommuting, modified schedules and teleconferencing should be implemented, wherever possible, to achieve social distancing to limit spread of COVID-19.
  • Check https://www.utmb.edu/covid-19 regularly for information.
 

REMINDERS

For Everyone
  • Do not allow anyone who does not have a UTMB badge to enter with you at any badge-access entrance.
  • See the travel page on the COVID-19 web site for details on continuing restrictions on UTMB sponsored and personal travel. You must continue to report personal travel via the online form.
  • Supervisors and associate deans for student affairs should consult with employees and students who are having issues with dependent care as a result of COVID-19 preparations. Supervisors and associate deans should contact their department’s HR Business Partner or school dean.
  • The Campus Store remains closed to the public until further notice. UTMB departments can call 409-772-1939 to place orders for pick-up. Visit https://www.utmbstore.com to place an online order for books.
  • Parking Offices at the League City and Galveston campuses are closed to the public. Contact Parking at 409-266-7275 or parking@utmb.edu. Individual appointments may be scheduled on the Galveston Campus.
For All Faculty and Staff
  • Please be aware that employees may be asked to work a different shift, work in a different location or perform different job duties than they usually do. We appreciate everyone’s flexibility and willingness to support the needs of those we serve.
  • Avoid gatherings and meetings of more than 10 people. Make every effort to maintain 6 feet of distance between participants when in-person meetings are unavoidable. Meet by teleconference/Skype whenever possible—and think broadly about what “possible” means.
  • If an in-person meeting is essential to UTMB’s mission and it involves people outside of the university, you must use conference rooms only in the Administration Building or Rebecca Sealy Building and maintain distance between participants and regular occupants of the building who may be working on-site. Meeting organizers should inquire the health status of any guest. And, again, think broadly about how the meeting could be done by telephone or teleconferencing/Skype.
  • See the guidelines for managers for information on travel, telecommuting and other HR-related information regarding COVID-19.
  • Continue to explore and implement telecommuting wherever possible to reduce the number of people gathered at our campuses.
  • If you are ill, please do not come in person to the Employee Health clinic. Contact the UTMB Access Center at (800) 917-8906 and speak with the 24/7 nurse hotline for a recommendation or contact your doctor’s office if you are not a UTMB patient. (If you have a work-related injury or illness, follow the established reporting procedures by contacting Employee Injury/Wellness Management at (409) 772-1892. See https://hr.utmb.edu/eim/ for more information.)
For Patient Care Providers (Faculty and Staff)
  • The Health System is contacting patients who had scheduled elective procedures to cancel those procedures until after April 5. Appropriate exceptions will be made based on patient health and potential negative impact of delaying the procedure.  ALL cancellation decisions will be made by OR leadership in consultation with the clinical chairs. Individual providers should not cancel any procedures without first consulting with OR leadership and their clinical chair.
  • All clinic visits scheduled for the next two weeks, except for visits that require an in-person appointment, will move to televisits, defined as telephone with video (FaceTime if available) or just telephone. Patients will be contacted by the clinic in advance of their appointments to notify them of this change. All patients calling to cancel appointments will be offered a telemedicine appointment when possible.
For Students
 
For Patients
  • If you have a cough, fever or any other symptoms of a respiratory infection and you feel you need to see a doctor, call ahead to the UTMB Access Center at (800) 917-8906 so they can advise you of the best location to be seen. See the infographic on what to do if you’re sick.
  • The Access Center also has a 24/7 nurse hotline at that number.
  • Follow the provider’s advice regarding testing, self-isolation and managing your symptoms.
  • The new visitation guidelines are available online.
  • All clinic visits scheduled for the next two weeks, except for visits that require an in-person appointment, will move to televisits, defined as telephone with video (FaceTime if available) or just telephone. Patients will be contacted by the clinic in advance of their appointments to notify them of this change. All patients calling to cancel appointments will be offered a telemedicine appointment when possible.
Protecting Everyone’s Health

Reminders for minimizing your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19:

  • Avoid groups of 10 or more people and avoid people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Any kind of soap will work.
  • Use hand sanitizer with minimum 60% alcohol content if soap and water are not available.
  • Cough/sneeze into a tissue and dispose of it right away. If you do not have a tissue, cough/sneeze into your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth—especially with unwashed hands.
  • Use disinfectant wipes or cleaner on frequently touched or shared surfaces.
  • Do not share dishes, cups/glasses, utensils or towels.
  • STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK.
 
Resources
  • Employee Health for UTMB Health employee return-to-work screenings after travel or self-isolation: emphlthc@utmb.edu or (409) 747-9172 (taking calls evenings and weekends to expedite screenings; same-day screening is guaranteed if request is received by noon)
    • Please do not stop by Employee Health in person if you are sick. Contact the UTMB Access Center or your non-UTMB provider by phone to review symptoms.
  • Student Health for health questions and return-to-school screenings after travel or self-isolation: stdwappt@utmb.edu or (409) 747-9508
  • For employees and their dependents who are experiencing stress or anxiety due to COVID-19, the University of Texas Employee Assistance Program confidential counseling and other services (24/7): (844) 872-5986 or https://www.uth.edu/uteap/contact.htm(Please note that the EAP cannot answer medical questions related to symptoms or COVID-19.)
  • UTMB Access Center for clinical appointments and 24/7 Nurse Hotline: (800) 917-8906.
  • https://www.utmb.edu/covid-19
 
Guiding Principles
  • Protecting patients, students, employees, volunteers and the community
  • Preventing exposures through social distancing and limiting non-clinical activity on our campuses
  • Preserving access to the outstanding care in our hospitals and clinics
  • Sustaining our financial stability for the long-term success of our mission.

Thank you for your help in planning, preparing and responding to the COVID-19 public health threat. This is a rapidly changing situation and your continued flexibility is greatly appreciated.

Sent by the Office of Marketing and Communications, on behalf of President ad interim Dr. Ben G. Raimer and the UTMB Health Incident Command leadership.

Resources for:

COVID-19 General FAQs

FAQs

Coronaviruses (CoV) 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). The novel coronavirus, now known as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

While COVID-19 causes only mild illness in some infected individuals, it may cause serious lower respiratory infection leading to hospitalization and even death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this factsheet highlighting important information you should know about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-10).

Last modified on 3/16/2020

  • Stay home unless you need medical care
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
  • Call ahead before visiting a clinic
  • Wear a mask
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items
  • Clean all “high touch” surfaces every day
  • Monitor your symptoms

Last modified on 3/10/2020

To ensure adequate COVID-19 testing capacity for patients with medical need, UTMB Health will use the following process to determine when to test for COVID-19. This process is consistent with guidance from the local health authority and Texas Department of State Health Services.

  • Patients with symptoms of respiratory illness, including cough, fever or shortness of breath, should contact the UTMB Health Access Center at (800) 917-8906 to speak with our 24/7 nurse hotline.
  • The nurse hotline will advise the patient on what to do next, including the most appropriate clinic location for evaluation if needed. (Please note that patients with mild symptoms and no underlying risk factors may be advised to manage their symptoms at home.)
  • Once a patient arrives at the recommended location, they will be seen by a provider and likely given a flu test. (Colds and flu are still circulating widely in our region, so they first need to be ruled out as a cause of symptoms.)
  • If the flu test is positive, the patient will be treated for flu as appropriate.
  • If the flu test is negative, the provider will recommend whether a COVID-19 test is warranted, based on the most current guidance from health authorities.
  • Patients should follow provider recommendations for testing, self-isolation and management of symptoms.
  • Any patient experiencing a worsening of symptoms—particularly shortness of breath—a few days after first becoming ill should contact the Access Center IMMEDIATELY.
  • Patients who do not have symptoms of a respiratory infection will not be tested for COVID-19 at this time. This is to ensure we maintain adequate testing capacity for patients who have medical need. It also reduces the risk of a false negative result in a patient who may have been exposed to the virus but does not yet have enough virus in their system to cause symptoms and to show up on the test.

Please note: Our process and procedures may be updated as the COVID-19 situation develops in our region.

Last modified on 3/15/2020

This is one of the topics that remains under study; it's still not certain exactly how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces. According to the World Health Organization, studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days (at one point nine days was mentioned, which the latest studies suggest may be unlikely). Survival of the virus will vary under different conditions, including type of surface, temperature, humidity and moisture, exposure to sunlight, and other factors.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Wash your hands with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. 

Last modified on 3/14/2020

There are no plans for UTMB to serve as a general quarantine facility in the case of an outbreak in our area. As always, we are prepared to care for patients who need hospitalization due to COVID-19 or any illness.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Last modified on 3/5/2020

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a dry cough,
  • fever of 100.4 F or higher, and
  • shortness of breath.

Any time a member of your household has a fever (whether flu, COVID-19 or another illness), they should stay home until they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours. If at any time you have concerns about any symptoms you or your family is experiencing, call your doctor.

Last modified on 3/10/2020

COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes and to what extent it may spread in the United States.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Last modified on 3/5/2020

  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
  • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Last modified on 3/5/2020

It may be possible that a person can 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, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.

Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Last modified on 3/16/2020

At this time, patients testing positive for COVID-19 who have mild symptoms, are not over age 60 and do not have an underlying medical condition are advised to isolate at home. If a patient with COVID-19 is concerned, begins to experience shortness of breath, starts feeling worse a week or so into the illness, is over age 60 or has an underlying medical condition, they are strongly encouraged to call their doctor or the UTMB Access Center at (800) 917-8906 to speak with our 24/7 nurse hotline.

Last modified on 3/16/2020