COVID-19 Update

April 03, 2020

In an effort to keep our community informed about measures we are taking to limit the transmission of COVID-19, University Health System is providing regular updates on our ongoing response to this unprecedented situation.

The practices we are implementing reflect our highest priority, which is the health and safety of our staff, patients and the community. Here’s the latest:

We continue to express our gratitude to all news media who have worked so hard to keep the public informed. Good, factual communication is crucial to helping our community navigate this crisis. We are committed to keeping you as informed as possible in this fast-changing situation. However, numbers without context – as in, how many beds, masks, ventilators will actually be needed to care for those who get seriously ill in the coming days and weeks ahead – are not really helpful.

So, to help keep things in perspective, we’ve created an overall quick-check status report for you. We may also include occasional responses to frequently asked questions, such as today, when we address the ongoing question of masks.

Here is a current situation on a scale of:  Good, OK, Concerning, Crisis

I’m not in clinical care, should I wear a mask?

We’ve been hearing this question from our nonclinical staff and members of the public.  We wish we had a definitive yes or no answer for everyone.

How effective barrier-type and cloth masks are in reducing the spread of COVID-19 is a question being debated by public health officials across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization agree that a mask or face covering can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when worn by a person who has the disease – certainly, if they are coughing, and even if they are carrying the virus but not symptomatic. They also recommend wearing a mask if you are caring for a COVID-19 patient at home. They are adamant that N95 masks must be reserved for use by healthcare professionals during this pandemic.

What’s less clear is whether a healthy person is better protected by covering up. The cloth masks you might stitch together on your own have not been tested so it is hard to say how effective they would be in screening out the viral droplets if someone close to you sneezes or coughs in your direction.

There are healthcare officials who argue that homemade masks or scarves provide some personal protection and that they are better than nothing. Others counter that masks also present risks for the wearer because if you touch the mask or it becomes damp, it can spread virus.  It could also give you a false sense of security.

While the mask debate seems to grow daily, there is 100 percent agreement on this – handwashing and social distancing are the best ways to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Supplies – OK

We’ve received a donation of 25 plastic face shields from Legend Design & Fabrication, and will be accepting more from them. These face shields are normally used in the care of patients who are in isolation both with contact/droplet and airborne isolation precautions.

Face shields provide more coverage than goggles, so we could use them during the COVID-19 response in ambulatory, inpatient and emergency department settings to prevent droplets from infecting our healthcare workers.

The type of plastic in the donated shields can be disinfected and reused, and we are grateful for the donation.

The donation is part of efforts by the Coronavirus Volunteer Corps, organized by Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert.

Operations - GOOD

We continue to develop contingency plans and source supplies, as well as redeploying staff to needed areas such as screening at all our entrances.

Community - GOOD

We would like to thank SeaWorld San Antonio for their generous donation of more than 400 N95 masks for our healthcare workers. Also: generously keeping our hardworking healthcare workers fed are Deco Pizza, El Monte BBQ, Double Check Enterprises of La Vernia, and Comal Water Werks, Greenhaven Landscape and Irrigation and Longhorn Inc. of New Braunfels.