As you know, today we canceled classes at UT and closed the university. My main concern at this time is the health and well-being of UT students, faculty, staff and community members. We took this action because the first case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) within our UT community was confirmed this morning.
It is difficult for me to write this because the person who tested positive is my wife Carmel. And a second member of my family (who works at UT) is presumed to have COVID-19 as well. I have now been tested for the virus, and the three of us are in self-isolation.
Carmel and I have compiled a list of individuals who might have recently been in close contact with us. UT Health Austin nurses will be reaching out to those on the list who are affiliated with UT to screen them per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
If you have had close contact with me or my family members or another person with COVID-19 and you are not exhibiting symptoms, we strongly recommend that you self-isolate starting today. You should continue to do so until it has been 14 days since your last contact. If you develop symptoms at any point, please contact your primary care physician or, for students, please contact University Health Services. If your symptoms are urgent, please call 911 or seek care immediately at your closest emergency facility.
Regardless of whether you are showing symptoms, please remember to take preventive measures and be cautious when traveling and interacting with people. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and avoiding shaking hands and other physical contact.
Last week, Carmel and I traveled to New York City for several events with alumni and students. We returned home on Saturday afternoon. After the trip, Carmel started exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms. She tested negative for the flu yesterday and was then tested for COVID-19. This morning at 5:30 a.m., we received the news that she had tested positive. This news came several hours after local health officials had announced two other, separate cases in Travis County.
Under normal circumstances, I would not describe the details of an individual’s illness. However, given the widespread impact of COVID-19, Carmel and I wanted to share this information with you so members of our community can take proper precautions
We had been anticipating that someone in Austin or at UT would test positive for COVID-19 in the coming days or weeks and, as you know, we will be making modifications for the rest of the semester. I will be updating you on the changes that we will continue to make. I also suggest you check our website frequently to stay informed.
The university is working around the clock to adjust to this rapidly evolving situation, and we will communicate with you every step of the way, which will include our upcoming plans for campus operations next week.