Prevention, Preparedness and Wellness

UTMB's Department of Preventive Medicine and Population Health faculty, staff, and students are working from a community-based public health approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our focus is on preventing the rapid spread of cases and supporting efforts to reduce the number of sick patients needing high-level clinical care at the same time.


To prevent the rapid spread of the virus & help families & communities adapt to a quickly changing situation, follow these recommendations


Keep updated on what is happening in your community, workplace, school district, faith organization, etc.


Proper hand washing, not touching your face, cleaning surfaces, staying home if you are sick, etc., are all important steps to take


  • Keep 2 weeks of food, medicines, and other essentials.
  • Collect contact information for family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Make plans for disruptions to your daily schedule. (ex: school or childcare closures)
  • Make sure you know where to go for care if a member of your household becomes sick.


Stay home if you can, avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, stay 6 feet away from other individuals and cooperate with closures in your community

Information provided by UTMB's Department of Preventive Medicine and Population Health


Updated 03/17/2020

You may have seen this approach called “flattening the curve.” Hand-washing and social distancing are the key actions individuals and families can take. Take both seriously.

If the virus spreads unchecked, health care systems will be unable to handle the number of seriously ill patients. These steps are about saving lives.

To prevent the rapid spread of the virus and to help families and communities adapt to a quickly changing and disruptive situation, we would like to clarify some of the what and why of recent policies and actions. We know some information in the media has been confusing. We recognize that individuals, families, and businesses will face economic hardships. Our intent is to clarify some of the information for people who are not yet sick and who are adapting to a new normal. Please keep in mind that the spread of the pandemic and expert recommendations and governmental requirements are changing every day. Stay updated!

The overall recommendations from public health experts, including the CDC, are to:

  • Continue to keep updated on what is happening in your community, workplace, school district, faith organization, etc.
  • Continue to practice personal and household hygiene through proper hand-washing, not touching your face, cleaning surfaces, staying home if you are sick, etc.
  • Create and follow a household preparedness plan.
    • As possible, keep two-weeks of food, prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicines, and other essentials at hand.
    • Collect contact information (phone numbers, emails, etc.) for family, friends, and co-workers so you can communicate and check on each other.
    • Make plans for disruptions to your daily schedule, such as school or childcare closures and requests for you to work remotely from home (as allowed and able).
    • Make sure you know where to go for testing and care if a member of your household becomes sick.
  • Practice social distancing and cooperate with closures in your community.

Taking these steps is particularly important for people who are at high risk for complications from the virus and for those who interact with high-risk individuals. The high-risk group includes older adults, immunocompromised people, and people with chronic health conditions.

It’s also important to note that people who are not at high risk may still experience complications from the virus. Although at much lower risk of serious illness, younger and healthier people can experience serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

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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