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COVID-19 Resources

Austin Public Health is coordinating the city’s response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak. Its COVID-19 page reports on the efforts, including the number of cases in Austin, recent news and new protection measures.

What To Do If You’re Sick

If you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, it’s important for you to be screened for testing. Students can call the University Health Services Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-6877. Others can call UT Health Austin at 833-882-2737; call your physician, who can register you to be tested with Austin Public Health; call CommUnityCare at 512-978-8775; or access telehealth services (via Austin Public Health).

Infection Control 101

Social distancing, monitoring, quarantine and isolation are all used to control the spread of COVID-19. Together with University Health Services, Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin have produced an infographic that explains self-monitoring, -quarantine, -isolation and related terms in both English and Spanish.

Social distancing is a conscious effort to maintain distance between yourself and other people as a way to mitigate the spread of disease. This means avoiding public gatherings, bars, restaurants or other events, even if you are symptom-free. Stay at least 6 feet from other people as often as possible. Take precautions if you cannot maintain that distance, such as using alcohol-based hand sanitizer and/or hand washing immediately after contact. Consider using curbside pick-up or delivery for essential items.

People should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 by taking their temperatures twice a day and remaining alert for cough or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop measured fever, cough or difficulty breathing during the self-monitoring period, they should self-isolate, limit contact with others and seek advice by telephone from a health care provider to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.

Self-quarantining separates people who were exposed but do not have symptoms to see if they become symptomatic. A person can be contagious before symptoms begin, so this is critical to prevent the spread.

Self-isolation separates people with symptoms of COVID-19, with or without a positive test. Stay home and away from others who share your residence to prevent the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 Testing FAQ

UT Health Austin has created a flyer that contains a flowchart for figuring out whether you need to see a health care provider about coronavirus and answers to frequently asked questions.

UT Health Austin is currently using a test called the RT-PCR, which is designed to detect evidence of viral genetic material in the nose and mouth of people who are potentially infected. This test has been conditionally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the diagnosis of COVID-19 under an Emergency Use Authorization.

UT Health Austin is not currently utilizing antibody tests, which detects the presence of antibodies in the blood that are formed after an infection and remain in the bloodstream even after the infection has been cleared.

A positive test result for COVID-19 indicates that viral genetic material was detected, and the patient is infected with the virus and presumed to be contagious. Test results should always be considered alongside clinical observations and symptoms in making a final diagnosis. Patient management decisions should be made with a health care provider and follow current CDC guidelines.

A negative test result for this test means viral genetic material was not present in the specimen above the limit of detection. However, a negative result does not rule out COVID-19 and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions.

The RT-PCR test has been designed to minimize the likelihood of false positive test results. However, in the event of a false positive result, risks to patients could include the following: a recommendation for isolation of the patient, monitoring of household or other close contacts for symptoms, the delayed diagnosis and treatment for the true infection causing the symptoms and unnecessary prescription of a treatment or therapy.

When diagnostic testing is negative, the possibility of a false negative result should be considered in the context of a patient’s recent exposures and the presence of clinical signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The possibility of a false negative result should especially be considered if the patient’s recent exposures or clinical presentation indicate that COVID-19 is likely, and diagnostic tests for other causes of illness (e.g., other respiratory illness) are negative.

If COVID-19 is still suspected based on exposure history together with other clinical findings, re-testing should be considered by health care providers in consultation with public health authorities.

UT Health Austin is still collecting data on the false-positive and false-negative rates of these tests.

A diagnosis of COVID-19 is made based on both the test result and the presence of symptoms fitting the viral syndrome. Sometimes, a test can come back negative if it was done too early in the course of the infection, and the patient can develop illness later. It is also possible that a second exposure after a negative test can result in illness.

A second test may be indicated if your symptoms are getting worse, including worsening shortness of breath or high fevers. It may also be indicated if you have a history of exposure and then begin to develop symptoms like a dry cough, sore throat or fevers.

COVID-19 is spread through person-to-person contact via respiratory droplets containing the virus. It is highly contagious, which is why the CDC recommends distancing yourself from other people by at least 6 feet to reduce the chance of transmission. However, it does not have a 100% transmission rate. Even among members of the same household, some may be found to have a positive test result while others have a negative test result.

If your household has people in it who have tested positive, it is very important for them to practice strict self-isolation to prevent further transmission between members of the household. The sick household member(s) should stay in another room or be separated from the other household members as much as possible. If they do need to share a room with non-infected people, wear a mask. Do not share any personal items, such as utensils, towels or bedding. Everyone should wash their hands often and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily.

People with mild cases of COVID-19 appear to recover within one to two weeks. For severe cases, recovery may take six weeks or more. About 1% of infected people worldwide will die from the disease.

Eighty percent of patients with COVID-19 are expected to recover without hospitalization and with supportive care at home.

Additional Resources

Coronavirus Tips & Resource Videos

Dell Medical School faculty are providing tips, resources and advice for staying safe and coping with the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic. Browse the videos by topic or view all of the videos on Vimeo.

COVID-19 ATX Exchange

Based on partner input, Dell Med has launched ATXCovidExchange.org to share COVID-related needs, leverage expertise and networks and identify community solutions. A community liaison team carefully vets the needs and manages responses, including coordination with appropriate people in the clinical, public health and community health arenas.

Toolkit for Coping With COVID-19

The Department of Health Social Work is committed to supporting people affected by COVID-19 and the response to it. As part of that work, the department has created a toolkit with resources to help community members, health care workers and beyond cope with the changes — both psychologically and concretely.

COVID-19 News