GSBS News and Updates:
Updated May 6, 2021
MD Anderson is continuing rate reductions of 50% at its garages and lots for the month of May. Visit the GSBS Alerts Parking and Transit page for complete details.
On April 27, CDC updated its guidance on travel for fully vaccinated people. Fully vaccinated individuals can travel within the United States and do not need COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine as long as they continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling - wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, socially distancing, and washing hands frequently. Learn more here.
However, on April 19 the U.S. State Department announced that it would expand travel advisories, urging U.S. citizens to stay home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose "unprecedented risks" around the globe. Read more here.
If you plan to travel, please be aware of all travel restrictions and note that you may need to complete institutional travel forms in order to return to your research work. Visit go.uth.edu/GSBS-Alerts-travel for more details.
CDC releases updated guidelines regarding outdoor masking for fully vaccinated individuals
On April 27, the CDC released guidelines stating that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask while doing certain outdoor activities, such as attending small gatherings with fully vaccinated family or with vaccinated or unvaccinated people. But masking is still recommended for attending outdoor events with crowds and various indoor events. Read the complete updates here.
GSBS community can now invite family, friends to receive COVID-19 vaccine
UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, has opened a waitlist for family and friends of UTHealth students and employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Employees and students may submit up to four names of family and friends, ages 16 or older, through an online registry form. Please note an employee or student ID number is required to complete the form. Read more here (requires UTHealth credentials to access).
MD Anderson has also opened it's vaccine clinics to employees' loved ones. Employees now can register up to four loved ones, in total, for the COVID-19 vaccine clinic waitlist. To register an eligible loved one for the waitlist, use the Employee Loved One Request Form. Those without access to a computer can call 713-745-6947. Click here for more details. (Links in the above paragraph require MD Anderson credentials to access.)
Volunteers needed at UTHealth’s Vaccine Hub
UTHealth’s Vaccine Hub continues to administer thousands of doses every week and provides an invaluable service to the community. To keep this process running smoothly and safely, clinical and nonclinical volunteers are needed to assist patients. Volunteers are needed seven days a week. Please sign up to volunteer online. More information on duties performed by volunteers is available on the UTHealth intranet (requires UTHealth credentials to access.
Texas governor extends state disaster declaration for COVID-19
On April 5, 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott extended the state disaster declaration regarding the coronavirus pandemic, which states that COVID-19 poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in Texas. The declaration was originally issued in March 2020. Read more here.
CDC updates cleaning guidance
According to updated CDC guidelines issued on April 5, disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings, schools, and homes where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus within the last 24 hours. Read full updates here.
According the update from the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States, but should still follow masking, hygiene, and social distancing recommendations as well as any state or local recommendations. Read more here.
MD Anderson is continuing rate reductions of 50% at its garages and lots for the month of April. UTHealth-owned garages and lots returned to standard rates in October 2020, and TMC-owned garages and lots returned to standard rates in June 2020. Please note that there have been changes to MD Anderson 1MC garage access and parking. Visit the GSBS Alerts Parking and Transit page for complete details.
MD Anderson is also offering a limited number of month-to-month parking contracts at the Mid Campus Building 1 Garage. Click here for details (requires MD Anderson credentials to access).
All UTHealth employees and students, including GSBS students, who have not yet scheduled a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, are encouraged to do so now. Vaccination appointments are available from Sunday, March 28, through Tuesday, March 30. Click here for information to make your appointment ASAP (link requires UTHealth credentials to access).
All adults will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Texas beginning Monday, March 29. The Texas Department of State Health Services expects vaccine supplies to increase next week, and providers in multiple parts of the state have made great strides in vaccinating people in the current priority groups. Read more here.
On March 8, the CDC released guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated, stating they can start to do some of things that they had stopped doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, people who are fully vaccinated can visit indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing. Read more here.
On March 2, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order lifting the mask mandate in Texas and providing flexibility for businesses to increase their capacity to 100%, effective Wednesday, March 10.
The GSBS, in alignment with institutional policies at MD Anderson and UTHealth, will continue existing preventative measures and policies. All students, faculty, and staff should remain committed to following CDC guidelines, including social distancing, masking, thorough handwashing, and other precautionary measures, including conducting meetings and gatherings virtually whenever possible.
We hope you and your family and friends stay safe and healthy, and if you have any questions, please contact us at Talk2GSBS@uth.tmc.edu.
On Feb. 10, the CDC updated their quarantine guidelines for vaccinated individuals. Fully vaccinated persons and meet the following criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19:
- Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)
- Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series
- Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure
CDC study finds double-masking offers more protection against COVID-19
On Feb. 10, the CDC released a research report that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. Read more here.
Texas governor extends state disaster declaration for COVID-19
On Feb. 4, 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott extended the state disaster declaration regarding the coronavirus pandemic, which states that COVID-19 poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in Texas. The declaration was originally issued in March 2020. Read more here.
CDC order requires face masks for public transportation
The CDC issued an order on Jan. 29. requiring people to wear a face mask while using any form of public transportation, including buses, trains, taxis, airplanes, boats, subways or ride-share vehicles while traveling into, within, and out of the U.S. Face masks must be worn while waiting, boarding, traveling and disembarking all forms of public transportation.
Masks need to be at least two or more layers of breathable fabric secured to the head with ties, ear loops or elastic bands. Masks fashioned out of scarves, bandanas, or the collars' of shirts or sweaters pulled over the mouth or nose do not fulfill the requires of the order.
The order goes into effect Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, at 10:59 p.m. CST
Information regarding 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine for UTHealth students, employees
UTHealth sent out an email to all students, faculty, and staff on Jan. 22 with information regarding the distribution location and protocols to follow for receiving the 2nd dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Click here for details (requires UTHealth credentials to access).
Reminder about new requirement for all air passengers arriving in the US
Effective Tuesday, Jan. 26, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires travelers flying into the United States from international destinations to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight. Students should review the CDC FAQ for International Travel for more details and information on this new requirement.
Students must then quarantine for 7 days post-travel and be tested again 3-5 days after arrival. Students should contact Student Health Services at 713-500-5171 for testing.
For more details regarding travel, please the GSBS Alerts Travel Advisories page.
UTHealth to serve as one of state's vaccine hubs
UTHealth, which includes clinical practices UT Physicians and UT Health Services, received notification on Jan. 16, that it was named a COVID-19 Vaccine Hub in Harris County by the Texas Department of State Health Services. UTHealth is waiting for more information and arrival of vaccine shipments from the state and will provide updates as available.
MD Anderson issues instructions on how to access your COVID-19 vaccination record
If you received your COVID-19 vaccination from MD Anderson, Click here to read more about how to get your vaccination record (requires MD Anderson credential to access). This is important proof of COVID-19 vaccination may be needed for travel and services in the future.
Houston area passes threshold for tougher COVID-19 restrictions
On Jan. 5, the Houston area surpassed a hospitalization threshold set by Gov. Greg Abbott that would tighten COVID-19 restrictions across the area. The region has seen COVID-19 patients make up 15% or more of the surrounding hospital capacity for seven days. Under Abbott’s orders, that automatically triggers restrictions that include the closure of all bars and a reduction of restaurant capacity to 50%. The restrictions would only lift if the region dropped below that 15% threshold for seven straight days. Read story here.
New resources added to the GSBS Alerts Health and Wellness page
The holiday season can be a stressful time during a normal year, but compounded with the coronavirus pandemic, you might be feeling more stress then in previous seasons. The Graduate School wants to remind you that the GSBS Alerts Health and Wellness page has several resources to help you manage stress and maintain overall wellness. New stories containing stress management tips and a link to the new #UTHealthWellness Connection blog have been added to the page's Wellness section. Just look for the links highlighted in blue text.
New policy at MD Anderson regarding screening at building entrances
Starting Saturday, December 12, MD Anderson will institute a new disciplinary policy for individuals who do not comply with entry screening protocols for all research buildings. The cancer center had a large spike in individuals failing to screen over Thanksgiving (screeners were not on duty at the research buildings; therefore, people entering had to go elsewhere to be screened to gain access to facilities) and again this past weekend there was a significant spike. Repeat offenders could potentially have their MD Anderson building access revoked for five days. Read more here.
CDC recommends people wear masks indoors when not at home
On December 4, the CDC published a report which included “universal mask use” indoors and anywhere outside of an individual's home. Face masks remain one of the best tools to fight the coronavirus, which is transmitted through droplets spread by people when they cough, sneeze, or talk loudly. Read the full report here.
CDC updates guidelines for quarantine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their quarantine guidelines on December 2 and now recommend two additional options for how long quarantine should last. Based on local availability of viral testing, for people without symptoms quarantine can end:
- On day 10 without testing
- On day 7 after receiving a negative test result
UTHealth is adopting the same quarantine guidelines as the CDC, but MD Anderson is not making any change to the quarantine guidelines at the cancer center. Click here for more information about the MD Anderson quarantine guidelines here (Requires MD Anderson credentials to access).
If you are a student who is working on the COVID-19 response by making masks, organizing supply deliveries, etc., we want to highlight you! Please contact GSBS Senior Communication Specialist Tracey Barnett to share your story.
GSA anonymous survey for concerns during COVID-19: Unedited responses will be forwarded to GSBS Deans' Office. The GSA and GSBS Deans' Office will address issues and provide further assistance.
The actions below are effective until further notice:
- The Graduate School administrative offices will be closed and staffers will be working remotely until further notice. This closure will minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission to patients located in the MD Anderson main hospital, which is adjacent to the MD Anderson Mitchell Building - home of the GSBS administrative offices. While we may not be in our physical offices, the GSBS staff is still here for our students and faculty. If you need to reach out to us via email, click here to find our departmental directory or email us at Talk2GSBS@uth.tmc.edu.
- All GSBS didactic courses will be moved online. The school will contact course coordinators with more information on this change.
- All GSBS students must utilize technologies, such as Webex, for all academic meetings, including advisory meetings, candidacy exams, and thesis defenses/public seminars, as well as student group events. Get more information here.
- All advising meetings with GSBS staffers will be held via phone or Webex. Contact the appropriate staff member to coordinate meeting arrangements.
- The Graduate School will be extending deadlines for all academic milestones for current students in all degree programs for a period of one semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions, please contact Bill Mattox, PhD, or Natalie Sirisaengtaksin, PhD