Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

All UTMB Employees

FAQs

Employees are expected to be fit for duty when reporting to work. Employees who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough and sore throat) may be asked to leave the worksite if they pose a risk to others. Sick leave or other applicable leave accruals will be used.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

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

If an employee is unable to return from personal travel due to travel delays, the employee should use accrued vacation, holiday and compensatory time and/or leave without pay. Sick leave accruals should be used only if the employee becomes ill.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Human Resources will explore every possible option with your manager to determine how your job can be modified to accommodate a telecommuting arrangement. If working from home during the isolation period is not feasible, employees will be placed on administrative leave if the isolation period resulted from university-sponsored travel. If the isolation period resulted from personal travel and telecommuting is not feasible, employees will be required to use sick leave. If accrued sick leave is not available, employees will be required to use other available accruals and/or leave without pay.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

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

If you do not feel comfortable speaking to the reporter, refer them to the UTMB Media Relations team for assistance. If the reporter persists, it’s ok to say you don’t want to comment and to again refer the reporter to the media relations office. (Please note that employees are not prohibited from talking with the news media, so it would not be accurate to tell the reporter that you are not allowed to speak with them.)

If you do choose to speak to a reporter, it’s important that you let them know you are speaking only on your own behalf and are not speaking in an official capacity on behalf of UTMB Health.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Employees should report these types of concerns to their managers. Managers should assess the situation and take the appropriate steps. This may include sending an ill employee home or reassigning staff to work from home or an alternate location.

Employees should also remember to practice good hygiene to avoid illness:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue (or upper arm if tissue is not available), then discard the tissue.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Do not share food, cups or utensils.
  • Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

No, please use your sick leave accruals and do not come to work if you are not feeling well. Staying home and away from others will help prevent the spread of germs. You should also consider consulting your health care provider if you are concerned about symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or difficulty breathing.

Last modified on 3/14/2020

All UTMB employees and their eligible family members have access to free and confidential counseling and referral services through the University of Texas Employee Assistance Program. The UTEAP is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 844-872-5986 or https://www.uth.edu/uteap/contact.htm.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

If there is a possibility that you have been exposed to the virus, please do not report to work and follow these instructions:

  • Avoid interactions with others.
  • Make your manager aware of your situation.
  • Contact your health care provider or call the Access Center for instructions on how to safely seek care.
  • Contact Employee Health to inform them of your potential exposure.
  • Do not return to your work location until authorized to do so by Employee Health.

Last modified on 3/16/2020

Employee and student health and safety is a priority for all areas of UTMB Health. As at any other time, we will work with employees and students who need health-related accommodations to ensure the safest possible work environment. We encourage any employee who has a concern about their work duties in light of COVID-19 to contact their supervisor or Employee Health. Students should contact their advisor or Student Health.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

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 or the UTMB Access Center at (800) 917-8906 to speak with the 24/7 nurse hotline. If a member of your household starts to feel worse after being sick for a few days, call your doctor or the Access Center immediately.

Last modified on 3/16/2020

Telecommuting

FAQs

If you are asked to self-isolate, arrangements may be made with your manager to work remotely during the period of isolation. Please be advised that the work assigned may differ from your usual and customary job duties. 

Last modified on 3/12/2020

With the potential local spread of COVID-19, each department should be planning for employees to work from home as a containment approach. The department’s Business Continuity Plan should address how the work will be structured and managed. The plan should also include how work would be structured and managed if multiple employees are simultaneously out sick and therefore unable to work.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Employees and managers should discuss the reason(s) prompting a request to telecommute. Each telecommuting request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and approved when warranted and feasible.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Managers are asked to work with employees to arrange for telecommuting options where feasible. You would not be required to have another caregiver available to care for children under the age of 13 if you are telecommuting due to a school or day care closure.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

No, a Telecommuting Agreement is not required as the isolation period is time-limited.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Telecommuting is one approach UTMB uses to create flexible working arrangements. At the present time, departments may establish temporary telecommuting arrangements on a case-by-case basis to support business needs. Not all jobs are suited for telecommuting, but managers and employees should think creatively about how to structure and manage the work should telecommuting become necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the communities we serve.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Yes. Departments have already been asked to review and update their Business Continuity Plans to address how the work will be structured and managed if it becomes necessary for employees to work from home as a containment approach. Managers should be preparing now by requesting the appropriate systems access, moving files and documents to shared drives or cloud applications, and providing instructions to staff to ensure that the team will stay connected. Additionally, managers should complete telecommuting drills to identify potential issues and to be certain that staff members can access the systems and files needed.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Healthcare Workers

FAQs

Our usual products and processes should be used for cleaning the environment and equipment. We just need to be thorough (as always).

Last modified on 3/12/2020

As always, we should, without fail, practice standard infection control procedures—including scrupulous attention to hand hygiene and appropriate use of PPE. These practices are essential not only during a COVID-19 outbreak, but at any time to protect our patients, our visitors and our faculty, staff and students. UTMB has adequate supplies of PPE and will use it judiciously to ensure we are well-prepared to serve the patients who need our care.

Last modified on 3/16/2020

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.

There are some coronaviruses that cause upper respiratory symptoms—essentially, a cold. This includes the four coronaviruses on our respiratory virus panel. 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 mortality rate for COVID-19 appears to be in the range of 2-3%, while the mortality rate for flu is about 0.1%

Last modified on 3/12/2020

No. However, we are asking staff to use isolation masks and N95 respirators judiciously. Unnecessary use of either could result in a shortage at a time when we need them. It is still flu season, and we see pertussis throughout the year, so we need isolation masks for both respiratory hygiene (“Cover your cough!”) and Droplet Precautions. N95 respirators should be worn only by an employee who has been fit-tested and who is caring for a patient believed to have an airborne infection. It is extremely important that we reserve these for the care of patients with TB as well as suspected/proven COVID-19 infection. See PPE Guidelines.

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

There are a number of ways to express caring while following good infection-control practices. For example:

  • Smile and greet the patient warmly, bringing your hands together at your heart and bowing your head slightly.
  • Let your patient know that your primary concern is their health and well-being and that you are making some changes in your own actions to protect them.
  • Make sure your patient is aware that you have thoroughly washed/sanitized your hands before you examine them, so they’ll know how seriously you take your commitment to their safety.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

TDCJ has a pandemic flu policy, which will be followed as in the past. The agency, along with its health care partners UTMB and Texas Tech University, is discussing all efforts necessary to mitigate transmission within its facilities throughout the state.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

As the situation changes both globally and in the U.S., we must modify our response to COVID-19. For example, travel questions initially focused only on China; now that there are cases of local transmission not related to travel, so screening questions will need to be updated. Our practices and protocols may need to continue to change as the outbreak progresses.

Also, we are learning more about this disease, so advice from the CDC regarding infection control measures for hospitals may continue to evolve. The response to any infectious disease or other emergency must be flexible and scalable.

Last modified on 3/16/2020

All patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms and who are determined to be “at-risk” and eligible for testing by standards in effect at the time (based on travel history, potential exposure to the virus and/or other health concern) would be tested, regardless of ability to pay.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Environmental Services is refilling hand gel dispensers around campuses and clinics more frequently. If you notice a dispenser is not full, please contact UTMB’s Service Hotline at extension 2-4040, and the team will address the issue immediately.

Environmental Services also is increasing cleaning of touch points throughout the day, such elevator buttons, doorknobs and other surfaces. If at any time you would like additional service in your area, please reach out to the department. They also are willing to provide your area with additional cleaning supplies if your unit/clinic/department so desires.

Environmental Services, which is operated by Sodexo, has recommended its employees follow recommended CDC guidelines and UTMB policy: stay home if sick—particularly if they are exhibiting flu-like symptoms—and remain on paid sick leave until their symptoms have cleared. Any Sohexo/Environmental Services employee who meets the criteria for quarantine for COVID-19 would adhere to those guidelines as well.

Please contact Jason Botkin or Kirk Dickson with any additional questions.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

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

Travel

FAQs

UTMB cannot restrict the personal travel of its employees, and managers should continue to approve time-off requests in accordance with their established departmental procedures if staffing permits.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

While UTMB cannot restrict the personal travel of its employees or students, all personal travel—whether international or domestic—is strongly discouraged until further notice. With COVID-19 now classified as a global pandemic, you should:

  • Avoid places identified as “at risk” and keep in mind that the list of at-risk areas can change quickly,
  • Be aware that the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 public health threat may require you to alter your plans mid-trip, and
  • Be prepared to self-isolate at home for 14 days upon your return, if deemed necessary by UTMB and/or your local public health authority.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/14/2020

Yes. UTMB is committed to the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students, patients, visitors and the communities we serve. As a major health care provider for a large and diverse region, UTMB must ensure adequate staffing levels to provide safe and effective care in our hospitals and clinics. To protect the health of our employees, students and patients, and consistent with guidance from the University of Texas System, UTMB has put into place restrictions, requirements and guidance regarding travel for all faculty, staff and students.

UTMB has suspended all university-sponsored travel—both international and domestic—by faculty, staff and students until further notice. Any exceptions must be approved by the Office of the President. Personal travel—both international and domestic—is strongly discouraged at this time; employees who elect to travel will have additional reporting requirements. All travelers must be cleared through Employee Health or Student Health before they can return to a UTMB campus or clinic location.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/14/2020

The recommended isolation period for individuals who may have had exposure to COVID-19 is currently 14 days. Employee Health and Student Health will manage the return-to-work status of all employees and students on a case-by-case basis.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

All UTMB employees and students returning from any kind of travel—sponsored or personal, domestic or international—MUST contact Employee Health at (409) 747-9172 or employeehealth.clinic@utmb.edu or Student Health at (409) 747-9508 or stdwappt@utmb.edu, respectively, for telephone screening before returning to a UTMB campus or clinic location.

Employee Health staff will review messages in the evenings and on weekends to expedite responses to faculty and staff, so please contact them immediately upon your return.

If the travel was personal, you should also complete the online travel information form at https://utmb.us/3v4.

Employees and students who have traveled will not be permitted to return to a UTMB campus or clinic unless cleared to do so by Employee Health or Student Health. Please note that you may be required to self-isolate by the County’s Health Authority until cleared for return.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

“Domestic travel” is long-distance, overnight travel by public conveyance (e.g., aircraft, train, bus, ships, shared rides, etc.) or by personal vehicle to locations within the United States or its possessions and territories. This excludes one’s usual commute to work or day trips to neighboring cities.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

An exception may be granted under extraordinary circumstances and only with approval of the Office of the President. To request an exception, you must contact the Office of the President in writing at https://www.utmb.edu/president/contact. Employees are strongly encouraged to explore alternatives to business-related travel, such as teleconferencing.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

Beginning on March 10, 2020, all UTMB faculty, staff and students MUST notify the university of any personal international or domestic travel, whether recently returned (within the last 14 days) or planned in the future. Travel must be reported via the online form at https://utmb.us/3v4.

See the Travel Restrictions, Requirements and Considerations for more information.

Last modified on 3/12/2020

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