Coronavirus (COVID-19) UTMB Daily Update

Telecommuting and Information Security

Mar 18, 2020, 11:17 AM by COVID-19 Communications

The novel coronavirus has brought to UTMB unprecedented and challenging times. On one hand we are an operating hospital whose mission is to improve health for the people of Texas and around the world. On the other hand, we have an obligation to protect our employees and minimize the spread of this virus through social distancing.

As directed by Dr. Ben Raimer, President ad interim, employees whose job duties do not require them to be physically located at a UTMB facility have been asked to work from home until further notice. With several thousand new telecommuters, our secure remote access capabilities are being tested, and some limitations have been identified.

As of today, our Citrix remote gateway is holding steady, but our VPN has hit its capacity, at 1,000 users. Information Services teams are working diligently to increase the number of active VPN connections to 10,000 users. We expect to have the VPN upgrade completed by close of business March 19, 2020, or sooner.

Other anticipated challenges include non-standard and personal devices connecting to our network. Basic security controls must be applied––if left unprotected, these computers can be used to distribute malicious software, or allow intruders to gain access to our internal network, putting UTMB at an elevated risk of data compromise and healthcare disruption.

Remote users must ensure that personally owned devices have basic security controls enabled. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

  1. If using a PC or laptop with Windows XP, 7 or an older version of MacOS, users should make every effort to access UTMB resources through the UTMB Citrix storefront at 
  2. Unless there is a need to have direct access to our internal network, all users are encouraged to use the Citrix storefront for their remote access/telecommuting needs
  3. Users should run a supported operating system on their personal devices; Windows 10 or a recent version of MacOS X.
  4. Security patches should be applied as soon as prompted by the Windows notification center
  5. Ensure that Windows Defender is enabled. Validate this by typing “security” into the search box next to the Start button. Click the Windows Security Application and verify that the Virus and Threat Protection icon has a green check
  6. If your personally-owned PC is running Windows 7 or 8, consider upgrading to Windows 10. A free upgrade from Windows 7/8 to Windows 10 is available from Microsoft
  7. Always store UTMB data in your H drive, or your Office 365 OneDrive. Never save protected health information or other confidential information to a personally-owned device.
  8. When searching for COVID-19 information on the Internet, ensure that is comes from a trusted source. There have been numerous reports of fake sites and phishing email spreading malicious software and stealing credentials. Scrutinize your email before clicking on links or opening attachments
  9. Remote access connections will be scrutinized; any device that appears to be compromised or is demonstrating other types of suspicious behavior will be removed from the network

In closing, I want to remind everyone that information security never ends. We must always keep basic security principles in mind, no matter where we are. As always, if you see something that doesn’t seem right, say something. Always report suspicious activity to

For more information about remote access please go to the Information Services "Working Remotely" web page.

Robert Shaffer
Associate Vice President,
UTMB Chief Information Security Officer

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COVID-19 General 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To keep our patients and employees safe, UTMB tests our patients for COVID-19 in advance of any procedure or hospital admission. 
  • You may also wish to check with your local county health officials for testing available through local government. In Galveston County, Health District testing information is online.

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

Last modified on 4/29/2020

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

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