WHAT PHYSICIANS NEED TO KNOW (updated Sept 17, 2020)

Get up-to-date information on what you need to know, links to financial resources for your practice, as well as key Texas Medical Board waivers and guidance.

Practice Viability in the Wake of COVID-19
     Financial Resources for Your Practice
     Human Resources
     Additional Resources
Contact Tracing
Vaccines During COVID-19
Disaster Preparedness and COVID-19
Physician Wellness and COVID-19
What Members Need to Know
What Patients Need to Know
Venturing Out?

Practice Viability in the Wake of COVID-19


Testing and Treatment

  • Testing in Houston and Harris County:
  • Harris County's Two Stationary Sites are now surge testing sites (HCPH, Aug. 4, 2020)
    • In partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS), both of Harris County Public Health’s (HCPH) Ken Pridgeon Stadium, 11355 Falcon Rd A. and San Jacinto College Central Campus, 8060 Spencer Hwy, locations are now  surge testing sites, aiming to increase testing capacity and faster lab turnaround times. 

  • Harris County Public Health (HCPH) encourages residents to get tested for COVID-19 if they feel they have it or have been in contact with someone who tested positive. Harris County is prioritizing first responders and healthcare professionals, especially those who work with vulnerable populations such as nursing homes. To sign up for COVID-19 testing, please visit http://covcheck.hctx.net/ to be screened or call 832-927-7575.
  • The Texas Division of Emergency Management is offering free drive-thru testing. Visit txcovidtest.org or call 512-883-2400. Health care workers will screen people for fever, chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, muscle or joint pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal congestion and loss of taste or smell.
    • Free testing is being conducted at the following locations or until capacity of 250 tests is reached:
      • HCC - South Campus, 1990 Airport Blvd, Sept. 28 - Oct. 3, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
      • HCC-Northeast Campus, 555 Community College Drive, Sept. 28 - Oct. 3, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
      • LeRoy Crump Stadium, 12321 High Star Dr., Sept. 28 - Oct 3, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
      • St. Philip of Jesus Catholic Church, 9700 Villita St. Oct. 3, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. (no appt required)
  • United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) has weekday testing at drive-thru and walk-up testing sites. No appointment is required. For assistance, call 1-866-333-COVID or visit ummcscreening.com.

  • Houston Health Department (HHD) is offering free testing. Call 832-393-4220 between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. You will receive an access code and directions to the nearest site.
  • Free testing is also available at community partner sites.
  • Select Walgreen's pharmacies have started testing for COVID-19. Patients can go to www.walgreens.com/findcare/covid-19/testing?ban=covid_testing to be screened.
  • Kroger is offering testing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or until daily testing capacity of 175 is reached. Appointments are required by visiting https://www.thelittleclinic.com/drivethru-testing.
  • CVS is now offering testing.  Appointments are required by visiting cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.
  • Walmart is offering testing.  Appointment required by visiting DoINeedaCOVID19test.com
  • Sign up for Houston Area Health Alert Network (HAN) to get the latest update.
  • COVID-19 Testing FAQs (updated June 18, 2020)
  • COVID-19 "How To" Testing Guide (June 16, 2020)
  • CDC COVID-19 Testing Guidance for Healthcare Workers (July 24, 2020)
  • Treatment

Contact Tracing

As physicians, you play an important role in stopping the spread of COVID-19. One essential tool is contact tracing. This begins with a positive test.  

  • Physicians are encouraged to advise their COVID-19 positive patients to contact the local health departments to start the contact tracing process. Patients will be much more likely to respond positively to a request from their physician than an unknown individual calling from the health department.
  • Patients can call the Harris County Public Health at 832-927-7575 or the Houston Health Department at 832-393-4220.
  • If a patient does not call, the local health departments will reach out to the individual after the health department receives a report of their positive test.
  • Patients should make a list of those individuals with whom they have had close contact starting from 48 hours before illness onset or 48 hours prior to positive test for asymptomatic patients.
    • Close contact is defined as contact within six feet for 10-15 minutes of another individual who has tested positive. 
    • The CDC does not recommend differential determination of close contact for those using fabric face coverings.
    • However, considerations should be taken if one or more of the individuals wore a N95 respirator.
  • Those who have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive person should stay at home, maintain social distancing, and self-monitor until 14 days from last date of exposure. 

Additional Resources
Harris County Public Health Contact Tracing
CDC Guidance for Contact Tracing
COVID-19 Contact Tracing Starts with You in the Exam Room -- TMA

Vaccines During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused healthcare providers to change how they operate to continue providing essential to patients. Ensuring immunizations services are maintained or reinitiated is essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks and reducing the burden of respiratory illness during the upcoming influenza season.

Interim Guidance for Immunization Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic --CDC
Schedule Changes & Guidance -- CDC

Disaster Preparedness and COVID-19

HCMS has developed a Disaster Preparedness guide that outlines the steps for developing a crisis plan and connects you with the appropriate government agencies and health organizations for additional needed resources and information.   
For further assistance with disaster preparedness:

Physician Wellness and COVID-19

HCMS Physician Wellness Program can get you connected to psychiatrists and psychologists who can provide needed help. Call HCMS at 713-524-4267 and ask for the Physician Wellness Program. This program is not a solution for emergencies. If you’re thinking about suicide, or are worried about a colleague, call 911 or your local emergency department.


Additional Resources

Hotels with special rates for HCMS physicians and their staff (updated April 7, 2020)
COVID-19 Personal Resources HCMS has gathered together a list of resources to help physicians meet their personal needs, as they deal with the challenges of COVID-19.  These resources range from free dry cleaning services to free tutoring for kids. 


Postponed Events:

  • April 4 - Business Expo - Will be rescheduled to the fall. Date TBD.

Favorite Healthcare Staffing
  • Favorite Healthcare staffing is prepared to assist facilities facing increased patient census due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • All specialties of Registered Nurses, LPNs, CNAs, and Advanced Practice professionals
    • Respiratory therapists, case managers, social workers. and other Allied Health professionals
    • Non-clinical staff including environmental services and materials associates


How Is COVID-19 spread?

It is primarily spread from person-to-person through:
  • Close contact within approximately six feet;
  • Respiratory droplets produced by coughing or sneezing. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

It is an upper respiratory illness that causes the following symptoms. It can take as little as two days, or as long as 14 days for symptoms to appear.
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

The list is not all possible symptoms.  Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
A significant portion of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.  COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.  Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm diagnosis.  For more information on similarities and differences, click here. 

What should you do if you are exposed to COVID-19?

Be informed and know your next steps.
The Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force has created a decision tree to help people understand what to do after they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Venturing out?

With businesses reopening, you might be looking for ways to resume daily activities.  Here are some things to consider:
  • How many people will you interact with?
  • Can you keep 6 feet of space between you and others?
  • What’s the length of time you will be interacting with people?
Additional Guidance Errands and Going Out — CDC

Risky Activities during COVID-19

TMA has developed a chart which identifies the level of risk associated with everyday activities. 

The level of risk was created by Texas physicians on the TMA COVID-19 Task Force. See the chart for details.

For Questions, Contact Your Local Health Department

How Can You Help? Give Blood Today

In order to maintain an adequate blood supply, healthy and well people should donate regularly.  If you want to be a blood donor, contact the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center to set up an appointment at a facility near you.