What if I have COVID-19 or have been exposed?


In view of the rapid surge of COVID-19 infection in our region, the entire UTMB community—including faculty, staff and students—has to be vigilant at work and in the community to prevent exposure, and if ill, to quickly get tested and not be at work or in the lab or classroom until a COVID diagnosis is known.

The high rate of infection in our area has affected our workforce and led to significant pressure on the capacity of the Infection Control, Employee Health, and Student Health departments. We urge all employees and students to be familiar with our work and safety rules, and to be prepared to make self-directed decisions and take personal responsibility to safeguard others based on this guidance. 

COVID-19 Exposure ProceduresPolicy for Evaluation and Management of COVID-19 Exposed or Infected UTMB Personnel. Updated 7/1/20.

What Every Manager Needs to Know about COVID-19 Exposures:

Exposed UTMB Personnel and Students FAQS

  • Notify Infection Control and Healthcare Epidemiology by calling 409-772-3192 or page 409-643-3133. Students should be reported to the Student Health Program.
  • We will need to know the employee’s name, basic job duties (e.g. nurse or administrative person), supervisor, and type of exposure (household, friend, etc).
    • The type of exposure will be taken into consideration. Household contacts are the highest risk.
    • The job responsibilities of the exposed person will be considered. While all staff are essential to carry out the mission of UTMB, some can work from home and we can continue to provide healthcare without their presence on campus.
    • The exposed employee will be required to be tested. We will notify Employee Health that the employee is restricted until test results are available.
    • Employees who test positive-regardless of job duties-will be taken off duty until cleared by Employee Health.

Updated 6/19/20

  • The employee may not work until cleared by Employee Health (409-747-9172).
  • Notify Infection Control (409-772-3192; pager 409-643-3133) and Employee Health (409-747-9172).
  • What is the process to determine how we manage coworkers?
    • Infection Control staff will contact the manager and employee. We will ask initially for the following information:
      • Was the employee symptomatic or tested for another reason (e.g. screened for an upcoming surgical procedure)? If asymptomatic, the manager will be informed there is no further exposure workup is required. This is low risk.
      • If symptomatic, when did the symptoms start?
      • When did the employee last work? If the employee worked within 2 days prior to onset of symptoms, we will do an exposure workup.
    • If an exposure follow up is required, the manager will receive a form to help Infection Control assess the relative risk attached to the exposure and inform the manager about the possible actions to undertake. Moderate/High Risk exposures will monitored via Employee Health. Very Low/Low Risk exposures will be handled by the manager by informing the employees that they continue to work, while wearing face mask and report any illness for next 14 days.
      • Very low risk: both the ill employee and other staff were masked for all interactions.
      • Low risk: the ill employee was masked, but was with another employee who was unmasked for a short time (less than 15 minutes) and/or was more than 6 feet away at the time.
      • Moderate risk: other staff members were masked, but the ill employee was unmasked. The interactions were either more than 15 minutes or within 6 feet.
      • Highest risk: ill employee and exposed employees were both unmasked and were within 6 feet of each other for more than 15 minutes.
    • My employee is really upset. What can I do?
      • Please contact Employee Assistance Program by calling 409-772-2485.

Updated 6/19/20

  • At work:
    • Everyone should mask in clinical and public spaces or when interacting with others within 6 feet of that person.
    • When interacting with others, both persons should be masked for maximum protection. We recognize that some patients, particularly children, may not be able to comply.
    • When you must unmask:
      • Maintain physical/social distancing during meals: keep a 6 foot distance between you and others. For example, in a break room, you should not sit directly across from another unmasked person. Skip 2 chairs on either side.
      • You may unmask in a private office when alone. Don your mask or maintain a 6-foot distance if someone else enters your office.
      • What about social events at work? See the masking & social distancing guidelines. 
      • If an employee or visitor seems ill, they should be asked to leave and to be tested before returning. Notify Infection Control and Healthcare Epidemiology (409-772-3192) to watch for test results.
    • Outside of work:
      • Employees should wear a personal facemask when in public: at grocery stores, drugstores, etc.
      • When employees eat out, they should pick restaurants that are practicing social distancing by blocking off some tables and where staff are masked.
      • They should not interact with sick friends or family members without protection.

Revised 6/19/20

Contact Infection Control

Healthcare personnel should immediately inform Infection Control of high-risk (symptoms + exposure) cases by paging (409) 643-3133.

Contact the following persons via UTMB phone operator at 409-772-1011 or email.

  • Infection Control: Dr. Janak Patel and Shirley Shores
  • Infectious Diseases: Drs. Susan McLellan and Philip Keiser

Links & Contacts

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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