About the novel coronavirus, COVID-19

Named after the crown-like projections on their surfaces, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common among different animal species such as bats, cattle, camels, and cats. While it’s rare that animal coronaviruses infect people and spread, the first human coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous, however, in recent years some types have become serious such as the SARS outbreak in 2003 and MERS outbreak in 2012.

In December 2019, officials from Wuhan, China first discovered the newest respiratory coronavirus, now called the “Coronavirus Disease 2019” or “COVID-19”.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does COVID-19 spread?

Human coronaviruses are thought to be transmitted mainly by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Person-to-person transmission is likeliest to occur among close contact (around 6 feet). This is similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens such as the common cold or flu spread.

How can I stay well and prevent potential spreading of the virus?

The same precautions we take to prevent flu also work for COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you feel sick.
  • Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze—then throw the tissue away.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For the most current information, check the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

What is HSC doing to stay informed?

A task force of HSC leaders, led by David Mansdoerfer, Special Assistant to the President and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health for the Department of Health and Human Services, is closely monitoring the situation with government agencies. These agencies include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, U.S Department of State, Texas State Department of Health Services and Tarrant County Public Health.

What should I do if I feel sick?

If you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath, call your health care provider first before visiting so your provider can take precautions to protect others in the clinic. Follow your health care provider’s advice. Stay home from school and work until at least 24 hours of being fever free without the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you must go out, wear a mask and avoid close contact with others, especially around infants and children, those over 60 and those with a compromised immune system.

Should we all wear masks?

Wearing a mask is recommended if you are sick and need to leave your home for an essential errand. People who are not sick do not need to wear a mask. Masks are effective in helping prevent sick people from spreading viruses and germs through coughing and sneezing, but  they are not effective in keeping well people from getting sick.

Is HSC restricting domestic and international travel?

Yes, effective March 4, university-sponsored international travel for students, faculty and staff is suspended. We recognize and appreciate the tremendous value our work and education creates overseas. However, we must first consider the safety of our students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. We look forward to removing this suspension as soon as conditions are considered safe. Effective March 10, domestic travel outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area is suspended until at least May 31.

What about students and employees who are already overseas, or who were planning to go overseas soon?

Every effort is being made to return students, faculty and staff from their existing trips in coordination with Academic Affairs and Human Resources. Students currently on international travel—or who have an upcoming HSC-sponsored international trip—should contact HSC Student Affairs at studaffr@unthsc.edu for help adjusting travel plans at no cost to them.

Is guidance available for non-citizen students and employees who may need to travel?

Yes. Please contact Leslie Crosdale, Director of International Services Leslie.Crosdale@unthsc.edu or call 817-735-2780.

What should I do if I returned recently from international travel or plan personal international travel soon?

Everyone who has recently returned from international travel—whether university-sponsored or personal—is required to observe a 14-day self-observation period before returning to campus or any HSC facility. This is required regardless of the country traveled to and should be applied retroactively from the date you returned to the United States. More information will be provided about this in coming days.

Am I required to adhere to a 14-day self-observation period even if my travel wasn’t related to HSC?

Yes, anyone who has returned recently from traveling internationally to any country is required to follow the 14-day observation period before returning to campus or any HSC facility (retroactive from the date you returned to the United States). This also applies to any future personal international travel planned in the near future.

What do you mean by “self-observation”?

Per the CDC, self-observation means people should remain alert for fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop cough or difficulty breathing during the self-observation period, they should take their temperature, limit contact with others, and seek health advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether medical evaluation is needed. Check the CDC website for the latest information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Can I work from home during self-observation?

Yes, employees should work with their supervisors to determine the most efficient use of remote work conditions. Employees working remotely for the purpose of COVID-19 self-observation are exempt from completing the normal Flexible Work Arrangement forms and training. It is HSC’s expectation that remote work will be utilized before emergency leave.

If I cannot work remotely, do I have to use sick leave or vacation time during self-observation?

The UNT System is creating a special paid leave category called “emergency leave.” Employees who are unable to work remotely can claim “emergency leave” time with the approval of their supervisor. Use the “EMG” leave type in eLeave until March 27.

After March 27 all employees under 14-day self-observation and who cannot work remotely must use vacation or sick time until the observation period ends.

This requirement includes employees who began the 14-day self-observation prior to March 27. For example, an employee who begins self-observation March 23 could claim paid emergency leave through March 27, but then would need to use sick or vacation time for the remaining workdays missed until the end of the observation period. Employees who may lack enough vacation or sick time should communicate with their HR representative to identify other options.


This page was last modified on March 20, 2020