Coronavirus (COVID-19) UTMB Daily Update

As of 12:45 p.m., March 25, 2020

Mar 25, 2020, 13:40 PM by COVID-19 Communications

IMPORTANT FOR TODAY 

  • All UTMB employees (faculty and staff, including PBLs) should have completed one of the following REQUIRED forms: the Clinical Labor Pool Employee Availability Form for those with clinical duties/skills or the Non-Clinical Labor Pool Employee Availability Form for those with non-clinical duties/skills. If you have not yet completed one of these forms since they were updated at noon, March 20, please do so immediately. This information is essential to our response plan for the ongoing COVID-19 emergency.
  • On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) into law. UTMB’s Office of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, Human Resources and Finance are reviewing the emergency paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave expansion provisions of this act and are working on implementing these applicable provisions on the effective date of the act: April 1, 2020.

    Additional FFCRA information will be communicated through the COVID-19 Daily Update, timekeeping instructions and employee email regarding the details of the emergency leave provisions and emergency family medical leave provisions, and how these new leaves coordinate with our Sick Leave and Family and Medical Leave policies.
  • Effective today (Wednesday, March 25), UTMB has implemented a No Visitors Policy for all ambulatory clinics and procedure areas, for the safety of employees and patients. Exceptions to the policy are:
    • One healthy parent/caregiver with a child
    • One required healthy medical decision-maker with an adult
    • One healthy caregiver for a patient unable to ambulate on their own
  • We continue to require all patients seeking provider or outpatient care—regardless of symptoms—to call the Access Center nurse triage line at (800) 917-8906 before coming to any UTMB clinic. The Access Center will arrange for a prompt televisit by phone or video whenever medically appropriate. If a face-to-face appointment is necessary, the Access Center will direct the patient to the best location for the needed care. No walk-in appointments are available without first contacting the Access Center. This policy ensures our ability to provide access to care while keeping employees and patients safe from being exposed to larger groups of people.
    • Guidance to researchers regarding the Galveston County stay-at-home order
    • CPRIT guidance related to COVID-19
    • DOD guidance to proposers and awardees impacted by COVID-19
  • Please continue to keep yourself safe and use PPE appropriately, per the guidelines from Infection Control. Do not use PPE in situations not approved in the guidelines. For example, use of PPE in common areas of the hospital away from direct patient care is not permitted. Inappropriate use of PPE is wasteful and diminishes the supply needed by our frontline patient care staff, who must rely on it for their and their patient’s safety.
  • Effective immediately and until further notice, no in-person meetings with consultants or other non-UTMB individuals are allowed on our campuses, unless the meeting is essential to our COVID-19 response and it cannot be conducted via teleconferencing. Teleconferencing should be used whenever possible.
  • The new climate-controlled tents to provide additional triage space are now in place at the League City and Clear Lake campuses. Tents are being installed today in Galveston and Angleton Danbury. They will be activated in the coming days as needed. Stay tuned for information on related workflows, opening dates and other details.
  • Continue to practice social distancing at work and at home.
 

GENERAL STATUS

  • UTMB activated its Emergency Operations Plan on March 18, consistent with declarations at the local and state level. See the March 18 update for details.
  • Telecommuting, modified schedules and teleconferencing should be implemented, wherever possible, to achieve social distancing to limit spread of COVID-19. Avoid groups of more than 10 people and maintain 6 feet of distance between individuals.
   

REMINDERS FROM PREVIOUS UPDATES

Closed until further notice
  • Campus Store—Call 409-772-1939 to place orders for pick-up. Visit https://www.utmbstore.com to place an online order
  • League City and Galveston Parking Offices—Call 409-266-7275 or write parking@utmb.edu for assistance.
  • Alumni Field House
  • Health Education Center closed to general student population (including food court)
  • Moody Medical Library closed to general student population (including Starbucks)
  • UTMB Dormitory Office Closed: Please contact the Ferry Road Apartments Office for assistance at (409) 750-9792 or email UTMB.Studenthousing@utmb.edu.
For All Faculty and Staff
  • If you’re experiencing technical issues with remote access for telecommuting, email ishelp@utmb.edu. A member of the Information Services support team will respond as soon as possible.
  • See details on screening of employees at hospital entrances. Please use only the designated entrances and do not allow anyone without a UTMB badge to come through a badge-access-only entrance with you.
  • As the situation develops in our region, continue to display the same level of professionalism our communities have come to expect from UTMB.
  • Get information only from reliable sources, and do not contribute to the rumor mill that always accompanies an emergency. 
For Patient Care Providers (Faculty and Staff)
  • The Health System page on the COVID-19 web site has been updated with the latest guidelines on PPE, along with other information for health care teams. Please check the page regularly for the updated information.
    • PPE should not be worn by a faculty or staff member unless they are in a patient care area that requires PPE.
    • Any faculty or staff member who has symptoms of respiratory illness should stay home.
For Researchers
For Students
  • Effective March 23, UTMB has shifted courses and clerkships to online and remote instruction until further notice. Students experiencing technical problems related to remote access should email ishelp@utmb.edu and someone will get back with you as soon as possible.
  • Check the Student/Parent section of the COVID-19 web site regularly for updates and pay attention to communications directly from your school or Office of the Provost.
For Patients
  • For the safety of patients and employees, all patients should call the Access Center at (800) 917-8906 before coming to any urgent care center or clinic so the nurse triage line can determine the best location for needed care—regardless of symptoms or condition. We will conduct prompt televisits whenever medically appropriate. We have sites available to provide face-to-face care when necessary. Walk-in appointments are not available without first contacting the Access Center to find the correct location.
  • Our No Visitors policy remains in effect at UTMB’s hospitals, for the safety of employees and patients. Effective March 25, UTMB has implemented a no visitors policy for all ambulatory clinics and procedure areas.
  • Current visitation guidelines are available online.
Resources
  • Guidelines for Managers (travel, telecommuting, etc.)
  • 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)
  • 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
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.
 
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. 

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