March 17, 2020

Dear UT Health San Antonio Faculty and Staff:

Essential Services/Working from Home:

  • I have executed a work-from-home plan for employees who may be able to work remotely. Employees must consult their direct supervisor to discuss whether they should report to campus tomorrow or work remotely until future direction is given. Managers may consider flex coverage and shift rotations as necessary to maintain operations. Our plan is to continue business operations as a remote workforce is implemented. Please review the comprehensive guidance here:  updated Manager Support website.

Hot Line/Info on Evaluation and Screening:

  • Tomorrow we will be activating an evaluation and screening hot line, staffed by trained nurses, to take calls from UT Health faculty, staff, UT Health providers, students and residents who have questions related to COVID-19 exposures, transmission and screening. That phone number is: 210-450-8000. It will be available 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. starting Wed., March 18.

Social Distancing/Sanitization:

  • We have cancelled large events and are asking employees to hold meetings virtually.
  • No visitors are allowed on campus, and access is limited to visitors accompanying patients at clinical sites.
  • We have implemented additional safety practices such as continual deep cleaning of public and high-traffic areas across the university.
  • All Gold’s Gyms locations, including the one on the UT Health SA property, are closed until further notice.
  • The Briscoe Library is now closed to non-UT Health visitors.

Travel:

  • As you have seen, there is information about taking strategic actions now to slow the spread, known as “Flattening the Curve” (see below).  All current San Antonio COVID-19 positive cases (as of today) are a result of San Antonians traveling and importing the virus from other locations which were thought to be safe.  We have already eliminated all business travel, including domestic and international. Please postpone personal travel and stay home! This is truly an “all hands-on-deck” crisis. We all need to stand in the breech. Lives depend on it.

Epidemiological Curve: “Flattening the curve” refers to community isolation measures that keep the daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers. The faster the infection curve rises, the quicker the local health care system gets overloaded beyond its capacity to treat people. As experienced in Italy, more and more new patients may be forced to go without ICU beds, and more and more hospitals may run out of the basic supplies they need to respond to the outbreak. A flatter curve, on the other hand, assumes the same number of people ultimately get infected, but over a longer period of time. A slower infection rate means a less stressed health care system, fewer hospital visits on any given day and fewer sick people being turned away.

Testing:

  • Testing sites for health care providers and first responders (only) are offered through a mobile site set up by the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC).
  • Testing sites for others: We are in close contact with STRAC and the City’s Emergency Operations Command (EOC) regarding additional testing sites that will be established for others. We will share that information as it becomes available. However, please know that these testing sites are limited by the number of testing kits and the inventory of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) which the testers must utilize. These sites are reserved for individuals who have severe symptoms and who may need hospitalization or medication for secondary infections related to COVID-10. If your symptoms are manageable at home, please do not overburden these sites, emergency departments or local providers. The majority of those who get COVID-19 will have minor to moderate symptoms that do not need to be tested or managed by our limited number of health care providers. Please use common judgement and have consideration for others.

Protecting Your Health:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands frequently with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available.
  • Use disinfectant wipes or cleaner on frequently touched or shared surfaces.

This crisis is likely to continue for several months; new detail and changing recommendations will be the order of the day. What remains constant, however, is our response to the crisis: thoughtful, evidence-based, collaborative and compassionate. I know our resilience will be tested, but I have confidence in our ability to help our community through to the best outcomes. Thank you for all you do.

With appreciation, admiration and respect,

William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP

President and Professor of Medicine

Article Categories: President Communications, Timely Updates