Dear UH Friends:
We continue to experience a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic in our country, state and county. You may be wondering if this pandemic will ever end. The good news is that we now have effective vaccines and medical and public health experts believe that by getting 60 to 80% of the population inoculated we can ultimately break the pandemic cycle! And, on a more immediate note, I’m pleased to announce we will soon begin offering free COVID-19 testing here at the University of Houston for all students, faculty and staff.
These should both go a long way in helping us meet the pandemic challenge.
So far, however, the vaccine supply available is pretty limited. Our Texas health department is prioritizing those who receive the vaccine first, with preference given to health care providers, individuals living in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, individuals 65 years of age or older, or 16-plus with at least one chronic medical condition, including pregnancy.
Our UH Student Health Center, and our Lone Star Circle of Care at UH clinic here on campus have both applied to be points of distribution, and we hope that they will soon have a supply of vaccine to begin to offer to the campus community. We will keep you posted on their progress. As a health care provider, I have already received my first dose of vaccine, and I encourage you to get vaccinated whenever that option is available for you!
Meanwhile, beginning Jan. 20, we will have a COVID testing kiosk in front of the UH Student Center open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Operated by Curative and funded by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, this facility will offer free COVID tests by appointment to all UH students, faculty and staff with valid UH Cougar Card IDs. This particular test is self-performed by the individual swabbing his or her mouth, under the supervision of Curative personnel. Results are returned by email within 48 hours of the test arriving at the lab. This will be an easy way to get reliably tested at no cost.
We strongly encourage you to be tested before returning to campus for the spring semester – or anytime you think you have symptoms suggestive of COVID, if you think you have been exposed to the virus, or just routinely (as often as weekly) even if you have no symptoms and have not been exposed.
In addition to the Curative kiosk that will be on campus, there are other free COVID testing options in the Greater Houston area. And remember that we already have testing available on campus through the Student Health Center for those who are symptomatic or have been identified as being exposed and meet certain other requirements.
Finally, let me remind you that faculty, staff and students returning from international travel, University-sanctioned or personal, are required to self-quarantine for 10 days, or get tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days upon return to the United States. These requirements for self-quarantine include international students who are traveling to the U.S. for spring classes. More information on UH’s travel guidelines can be found on the UH COVID-19 website. In addition, if you have been diagnosed for COVID-19, please complete the UH Reporting COVID-19 Diagnosis form as soon as possible.
Now, convenient testing and potent vaccinations are tremendously valuable for combatting COVID-19, but let’s not overlook the fundamental importance of continuing to wear masks, maintaining social distance and practicing good handwashing and respiratory hygiene. And it’s still crucial that you self-isolate if you are infected with the virus, and self-quarantine if you have been exposed. It will take all these tools – and all of us using them responsibly – to win this fight. But I’m confident we can do it.
Stephen J. Spann, M.D., M.B.A.
Founding Dean, College of Medicine
Vice President for Medical Affairs