Regional health care institutions unite to help stop spread of coronavirus

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After several confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Houston-area, many people have become concerned about their health and safety in public spaces.

The following are statements from popular local and national businesses regarding the virus:

MUSEUMS/ZOOS

Houston Zoo



Houston Museum of Natural Science
"The museum has installed additional hand sanitizer stations throughout our facility. But our policy (as a museum and public place) is to clean and disinfect daily. We hope that visitors do utilize the sanitizers and restrooms (to wash hands) but, at this time, the museum is continuing daily operations as usual."

Children's Museum of Houston
"Although we don't have new policies or restrictions at Children's Museum Houston, we continue to follow rigorous cleanliness practices which are always in place. Here's a statement which includes what we do to maintain a germ-free environment....

The health and safety of our visitors and staff is of utmost importance at Children's Museum Houston.
We have been communicating with the City of Houston Health Department specifically about Coronavirus and are monitoring daily information coming from the Centers for Disease Control and other trusted sources, including Association of Children's Museum, Association of Science and Technology Centers, and others. We are committed to providing a clean and safe environment and continue to follow a strict set of guidelines for cleanliness:

1. We have a full-time cleaning staff actively cleaning exhibits, restrooms, galleries and all hands-on items and surfaces throughout the day, using a bleach and water solution recommended for schools.
2. We circulate the air in the building constantly in order to provide fresh air.
3. Deep cleaning takes place every night after we are closed.
4. Signs are displayed in admissions, information booth, and on all restroom mirrors to give information on how to wash your hands thoroughly; 20 seconds of active washing is required.
5. School and other groups are required to provide signed confirmation that no student on a tour is ill.
6. Antimicrobial carpet is used in places where children are encouraged to play on the floor.
7. Staff is required to consistently wash hands while on duty, and before and after breaks.
8. Staff is provided with free flu shots before flu season begins.
9. We encourage staff to stay home when sick.
10. Signs are posted in the lobby asking people who might feel ill to leave the Museum and to visit another day.
11. We hope visitors wash their hands frequently and use the hand sanitizers available between washings."


DELIVERY/RIDESHARE SERVICES:

Uber:
"Coronavirus health and safety guidance
Given the concern about coronavirus (COVID-19), we're working closely with public health authorities to provide the most up to date guidance on how to protect yourself and others.

We encourage you to follow these recommendations:

  • IF YOU FEEL SICK, STAY AT HOME - If you have a mild illness, respiratory symptoms, or have a fever (38 C or 100.4 F or above), stay home and keep away from others. If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor.
  • WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY - Wash your hands with liquid soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to disinfect your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • COVER YOUR COUGH OR SNEEZE - Use a tissue to cover your cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash, then wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue within reach, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • CLEAN AND DISINFECT YOUR VEHICLE - Pay special attention to surfaces that you and passengers frequently come in contact with.


As always, if you feel uncomfortable picking up a passenger for safety reasons, you can choose not to accept or cancel the trip. However, it is absolutely against Uber's Community Guidelines to discriminate against anyone based on their race or national origin."


STORES/GROCERS

Walgreens:
"We are continually monitoring the situation, and are committed to taking the most appropriate steps necessary, in the best interest of our team members and customers, while following the guidance of the CDC and other health officials.

Working closely with our clinical and safety teams, we are continuously providing our pharmacy teams with the latest information available from the CDC and other health officials in order to serve as a resource for customers and to help address any questions and concerns."


HEB:
"At H-E-B, our top priority is taking care of Texas. While the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is an evolving situation with many unknowns, we are sure of one thing: We will do our part to help our fellow Texans prepare. As a state, we can help slow the spread of the virus by working together. H-E-B is prepared to help our fellow Texans in any situation our company and communities might face. Below are some of the things we're doing to help:

Protecting Our H-E-B Partners + Communities

Our Partners are the heart of everything we do at H-E-B and we want to help them take extra care of themselves and their families so they can take better care of you, our customers. We are equipping our Partners with the best and most current information so that they can make informed decisions for their families. We have increased resources for our Partners to improve their wellness practices and if they do not feel well, we encourage them to stay home. Additionally, the company has eliminated all business-related air travel both domestically and internationally for H-E-B Partners until further notice.

We are also paying close attention to the health needs of our communities and are scaling back our presence at large community gatherings, to promote awareness and prevent the further spread of the virus. While Texans may not see our H-E-B Partners volunteering and actively out in our communities for the next couple of months as we often are, please know that these Partners are working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure our stores are prepared to serve customers during this time. H-E-B is committed now more than ever to engaging our customers throughout this significant health concern facing our communities.

Providing Access to Products For Everyone

We understand our customers want to prepare by stocking up on the essentials. Texans must continue to prepare, but panic does not promote progress. In order to help ensure all can secure the products they need, when they need them, we've implemented limits on certain items because we know limits will help protect the supply chain in Texas. While our customers might find our supply of some products low or temporarily out of stock, please rest assured knowing that we're maintaining close contact with our suppliers and our Partners are working around-the-clock to keep our shelves stocked. We encourage customers to check back with us if they cannot find what they need, as we'll continue to restock our products.

Helping Ensure A Safe Shopping Experience

At H-E-B stores, we are going above and beyond our already-strict protocols to sanitize our stores to create a safer shopping experience. We'll be sanitizing our stores and hard surfaces at higher frequency and customers can find hand sanitizer available throughout our stores, as well as basket wipes at every entrance. We're also conducting training for our Partners to reinforce our enhanced hygiene and personal wellness measures.

Working Together To Protect Texas

We understand the increase in reported coronavirus cases is expected as testing has recently become available in Texas. As a state, we can help slow the spread of coronavirus by working together as a community. There are everyday preventative measures and practices we can all employ to stay healthy, and help prevent the flu and other viral infections:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • At home and at work, clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Rest assured, according to the CDC, the coronavirus is not related to any food products.


For over 115 years, H-E-B has been committed to serving our customers with safe shopping experiences that offer access to the best quality products at everyday low prices - and we are well-positioned to continue to do so. Our H-E-B team is closely monitoring all developments related to the coronavirus and we're prepared to take additional actions as needed to help ensure the safety, health and well-being of our customers, Partners and communities. Stay tuned to our H-E-B Newsroom for more updates.

Let's work together to take care of Texas."


Walmart:
"We continue to prioritize the safety of our associates, customers and business partners as we monitor the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) around the world. Out of an abundance of caution, we are sharing additional guidelines pertaining to travel that are effective immediately. We expect these guidelines to be in place for at least the months of March and April, so plan accordingly. We'll continue to provide updates as things develop.

Specifically, we are providing guidance on:

  • International travel - We are restricting all cross-border international travel to business-critical trips. This applies to all the markets in which we operate. Any such trip must be approved by the Executive Council member for your area or your in-country CEO for International. We will of course make proper arrangements for associates on international travel to return home safely. If you're currently traveling, work with your management and travel team to plan your return.
  • Domestic travel - In the U.S., we will continue domestic travel related to essential operations, which includes store and club visits. However, we will restrict less essential travel related to conferences, trade shows and other events. Consult your leadership team if you have questions about a domestic travel decision. Outside of the U.S., each country president will establish or alter their domestic travel guidelines as appropriate.
  • Group meetings - Let's be selective about which group meetings occur during this period. In the U.S., we are cancelling the Walmart U.S. Customer Conference (formerly Year Beginning Meeting) that was scheduled to be in Dallas next week. It seems best to cancel given the size of that meeting, plus the benefit of having our store managers present in their stores during this time. We will have a virtual form of the meeting to share some key points. Within our offices, we will continue to gather in groups for meetings (e.g. Town Hall meetings); however, we don't want you to travel for them. Let's use video conferencing or call in rather than travel.


As we shared last week, all associates should take preventive measures to stay healthy. As always, if you're not feeling well, please don't come to work. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

In the coming weeks and months, as the world learns more about this virus, we will evaluate our response and keep you informed. More information for associates in the U.S. is available on OneWalmart. Associates in our international markets should visit Passport. These pages will be updated frequently.

Thank you to our associates who are doing an exceptional job of serving our customers and communities around the world during this unusual time."


CRUISES/TRIPS/TRAVEL/AIRLINES

Carnival Cruise Line
"Carnival Cruise Line has issued updated screening protocols and enhanced measures for the health and well-being of its guests and crew as it relates to COVID-19 (coronavirus). These include enhanced screening procedures for guests who have traveled to certain restricted countries, taking all guest and crew temperatures prior to embarkation, measures we are taking in our cruise terminals and rigorous sanitizing procedures on our ships, along with tips for our guests to stay healthy onboard."

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
"At Southwest, the Safety of our Customers and Employees is our uncompromising priority, and we are closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVOID-19). We are engaging daily with medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other government agencies as the situation evolves. Southwest has not cancelled or suspended any flights or routes due to the current situation, and none of the 102 destinations that Southwest serves are currently listed as geographic risks by the CDC.

Of course, should any occur, we will quickly announce any adjustments to our procedures or operations so that you can maintain confidence in your travel booked with Southwest Airlines.

Aircraft Cleaning and Cabin Environment
Southwest Airlines aircraft are maintained in accordance with an established program aimed at providing a clean and inviting cabin environment. In addition to tidying each aircraft between flights, we spend more than six hours cleaning each aircraft every night. And, as of March 4, 2020, we have enhanced our overnight cleaning procedures. Typically, we use an EPA approved, hospital-grade disinfectant in the lavatories and an interior cleaner in the cabin. Now, we are expanding the use of the hospital-grade disinfectant throughout the aircraft, and it will be used in the cabin, on elements in the flight deck, and in the lavatory. These procedures meet or exceed recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Additionally, we equip all our aircraft with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which filters out recirculated air onboard each plane to remove airborne particles. HEPA filters are also used in hospitals to provide patients with clean air.

Change and Cancellation Fee Policies
Southwest Airlines never charges Customers a fee to change or cancel their flight. If a Customer's plans change, or they decide they no longer want to travel, the funds used to pay for their flight can be applied to future travel - as long as they cancel their flight at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. The funds are valid for future travel up to one year from the original purchase date and must be used by the individual named on the ticket. More information on policies related to travel funds can be found on Southwest.com. We hope these policies provide our Customers with flexibility and peace of mind as they plan their travel.

Personal Safety Recommendations
We recommend the CDC's website as a resource for ways that Customers can best protect themselves from becoming ill. Additionally, Customers are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer and/or anti-bacterial wipes when traveling.

Ongoing Updates
As we make any changes to our operations or procedures we will keep this page updated with the most current information. It will remain available via our homepage at www.southwest.com."


United Airlines:
"The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to evolve rapidly. The safety of our customers and employees is and always will be our top priority.

Our teams are in daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), federal agencies and other global health organizations to share the most up-to-the-minute information. What's more, United has a team of in-house professionals, including an industrial hygienist who reviews and tests cleaning products and a corporate medical team who are working around the clock. United also partners with International SOS/MedAire, an organization that gives all employees ready access to an emergency department doctor for advice and assistance when they are on business outside their home country.

The dynamic nature of this outbreak requires us to be nimble and flexible in how we respond, provide service and protect our customers and employees. Here are some of the ways we are taking action - we'll continue to update this post periodically as new details are available.

Change fee waiver
We're waiving change fees for any bookings - domestic and international - made between March 3 and March 31, 2020.
The waiver applies to all tickets, all fare types, all destinations, all points-of-sale and all travel dates available for sale.
For more information visit https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/notices.html.
Aircraft cleaning
All aircraft are cleaned at a variety of touchpoints throughout the day.
The cleaning procedure for flights includes a thorough wipe-down of all hard surfaces touched by customers and employees - including lavatories, galleys, tray tables, window shades and armrests.
United uses an effective, high-grade disinfectant and multi-purpose cleaner.
When we are advised by the CDC of an employee or customer who has traveled onboard and who is potentially exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, that aircraft is taken out of service and sent through a full decontamination process that includes our standard cleaning procedures plus washing ceilings and overhead bins and scrubbing the interior.
United aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art circulation systems, similar to those found in hospitals, which use a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter to circulate the air and removes up to 99.7% of airborne particles.
Soon, we will start using an electrostatic fogger to disinfect the air and surfaces within the cabin on all international arrivals into our U.S. Hubs, Honolulu and Guam.
In flight
To limit person-to-person contamination, we have instituted the following procedures on board:
We have stopped refilling used cups and glasses in all cabins. If a customer requests a refill, our flight attendants will provide a new cup or glass.
Customers may now see flight attendants wearing gloves during food and beverage service as well as during pickup, in all cabins.
Our flight attendants will hand all beverages directly to the customer, instead of allowing the customer to take their own from the tray.
All tableware, dishes, cutlery, carts and glassware are washed and sanitized.
We've added supplies for our crews on segments flown to Alert Level 2 zones* and upward: gloves, masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, Sani-Com wipes, foaming hand soap, and disinfectant wipes as supply becomes available.
*Alert Level 2 zones, as defined by the CDC, can be found here.
In airports
Providing hand sanitizer for use in our crew and break rooms, lounges and gates
Ensuring regular disinfection of common surfaces inside our airport terminals
What you can do
According to the CDC, the National Safety Council, and the WHO:

Wash your hands often - and thoroughly - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content is a good secondary option
Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes with unwashed hands
Use gloves and masks as needed
Get a flu shot if you haven't already
If you're sick - stay home
How to stay informed
For more detailed information about COVID-19, how it spreads and prevention and treatment please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

Also, the CDC has updated their country index page where you can find up-to-date COVID-19 risk assessments by country."

American Airlines:
  • "On every journey you take with American Airlines, your safety and well-being, and that of our team members, is our top priority. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a complicated and fluid situation, and we continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Department of State and public health officials on the latest developments.

    Having information on our response is a critical step in giving you peace of mind during travel. Here's what we're doing to ensure your safe journey with us:

    Our aircraft
    • Our cleaning practices have always met or exceeded all CDC guidelines. We have a strong, structured cleaning regimen and our aircraft are cleaned each day at key touchpoints on their journeys with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
    • International flights and aircraft with additional time on the ground receive a detailed 30-point cleaning package each day. All of our aircraft also undergo a deep cleaning procedure on a regularly scheduled basis.
    • We are enhancing our cleaning procedures on international flights and aircraft that remain overnight at an airport. This move, which will touch the majority of our aircraft each day, includes a more thorough cleaning of all hard surfaces, including tray tables and armrests.
    • Most of our aircraft are equipped with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that provide a complete air change approximately 15 to 30 times per hour, or once every two to four minutes. A HEPA filter's complete air change is better than most other forms of transportation and office buildings' and similar to the standard for hospitals.
    • We're provisioning hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for crew members on all international flights across the Pacific Ocean and to Italy. We are working to expand this measure to all flights in the near future.


    Our inflight dining and beverages
    All catering equipment on key international flights is undergoing additional sanitation and disinfection procedures:
    • All tableware, dishes, cutlery and glassware are being sanitized/disinfected before washing.
    • All unused inbound supplies are being discarded.
    • Inbound linen and headphones are being sanitized separately.
    • All galley equipment, including carts and carriers, are being sanitized separately.
    • On key international flights, mid-cabin bar service will be adjusted and self-serve snack and fruit baskets will be removed. Flight attendants will provide food and beverage items upon request.


    Our airports
    • American works closely with airport authorities and government agencies to maintain a safe, clean environment for our customers and team members. This includes our own extensive protocol for cleaning customer and team member areas throughout the airport.
    • Sanitizing wipes are also available for our team members and hand sanitizing stations are available for customers in key locations throughout the airport.


    In guidance with health officials, we urge customers not to travel when sick with an acute respiratory illness. We also encourage our customers to travel with hand sanitizer. To learn more about protecting yourself from COVID-19, visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/coronavirus."


Delta Airlines


Jetblue Airlines
"JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU) today announced it will suspend change and cancel fees for new flight bookings starting tomorrow, February 27, through March 11, 2020, for travel completed by June 1, 2020*. The policy is designed to give customers confidence that they will not be charged any JetBlue fees for changes or cancellations later given evolving coronavirus concerns. The move will apply to all fares offered by JetBlue, including Blue Basic, which generally does not allow for any changes or cancellations. Flights booked through JetBlue Vacations will also be allowed changes or cancellations with no fees.

"While authorities have not issued any travel restrictions to the locations we fly, we want to give our customers some peace of mind that we are ready to support them should the situation change," said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. "Given our mission is to inspire humanity, we felt this suspension was an important way to live up to our crewmember and customer expectations during this uncertain time. We are committed to the health and safety of both our crewmembers and customers, and we are working directly with health and security officials as well as industry leaders for updates and best practices."

Customers who book in the next two weeks will receive a full travel credit should they need to cancel their trip, and customers who wish to change their plans can apply the full amount from their original booking to a different itinerary, although fare differences may apply. Customers who have bought a package through JetBlue Vacations can contact JetBlue to understand the cancel and change policies for rental cars, hotels, and other travel products that are part of their package.

JetBlue is taking measures aligned with the recommendations of global health authorities and has activated its pandemic response team, which is monitoring the situation in real time and working with key stakeholders to determine any further action. The airline is also promoting handwashing and healthy hygiene practices among its crewmembers and continuing to ensure compliance with aircraft cleaning procedures. Customers who want to understand what precautions they can take, should visit cdc.gov/coronavirus."


Alaska Airlines:
"We've been fielding questions from guests and employees alike about air quality onboard aircraft. While Dr. John Lynch, one of our University of Washington medical directors, has advised coronavirus is not thought to be airborne, our planes are equipped with systems that contain two HEPA, or High Efficiency Particulate Air filters. They're the same kind of filters found in hospital operating rooms.

"It's not a self-contained tube with the same air for a six-hour flight," said Constance von Muehlen, senior vice president of maintenance & engineering. "The air in a cabin comes from the top and flows out from your feet. In fact, there's a large portion of air that comes directly from outside. Within a three-minute period you get completely new air in the entire cabin."

If guests want more filtered air, they can simply open the vent above them. It's important to note that the flight deck, galley areas, and lavatories get air directly from outside the aircraft. That air also gets directly exhausted outside.

Alaska Airlines has one of the newest fleets in the country which ensures our planes have the latest filtration technology in use. Our filters are changed according to manufacturer guidelines.

Studies have shown due to the frequency of cabin air recirculation, that the air onboard planes can be better than the air found in many office buildings."


Hawaiian Airlines:
"Hawaiian Airlines today announced it would adjust flight frequencies between Hawai'i and Tokyo's Haneda Airport (HND) at the end of March due to slowing travel demand attributed to the COVID-19 virus.

Effective March 28 through April 29, the airline will temporarily suspend flights that operate three-times-weekly between Kona International Airport (KOA) on the Island of Hawai'i and HND, and four-times-weekly between Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and HND. At the same time, "Hawaiian will launch an additional daily nonstop service between HNL and HND as announced in November of last year.

'Japan is a vitally important market for our airline, and we have been looking forward to launching our third nonstop flight between Honolulu and Haneda, which offers more convenient connecting times for our guests," said Peter Ingram, president and CEO at Hawaiian Airlines. "Unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 beyond Asia has diminished near-term global travel demand, so we are balancing some of our Haneda capacity by suspending for about a month our hybrid service between Haneda and Honolulu and Kona.'"


Allegiant Airlines
"Allegiant is a domestic carrier and does not serve Europe or Asia. We have not suspended any scheduled flights or routes due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Allegiant is in constant contact with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), US Department of Homeland Security / TSA and the US Department of Transportation, and they have made no recommendations for domestic airlines to alter service at this time.

Customers with reservations may request a one-time change to their travel plans without incurring change / cancel fees. To make changes to your reservation, please contact our Customer Care Service Center at 702-505-8888. You may also contact us via email at Customer.Relations@allegiantair.com or our social media on Twitter @allegiant or Facebook @allegiant for assistance."


HEALTHCARE FACILITIES

Regional Health Care Institutions

Regional health care providers in the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical complex in the world, are now working together to implement measures that can decrease transmission of the coronavirus.

The institutions are calling on anyone visiting a hospital or health care site to consider the following:

  • Patients and visitors should plan ahead. Check your institution's website for specific visitor policy information.

  • If patients are not feeling well, they should contact their care team for direction before traveling to the appointment.

  • If visitors are not feeling well, they should stay home.

  • Most institutions only allow two visitors at a time, per patient. Visitors must be 18 or older and cannot have symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath.

  • Allow extra time as building entrances have been reduced and health screenings are taking place at these entrances. Screenings include questions about recent travel, current health and a possible temperature check.

  • People who do not have a critical reason to be at the hospital or health care site should stay home.

  • The best way to prevent the spread of germs is proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.


MD Anderson

MD Anderson will start screening patients and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms at six of its locations starting Friday.



Memorial Hermann
"Memorial Hermann continues to take proactive steps to protect our employees, physician partners, patients and community by implementing a workforce protocol based on CDC guidelines. This protocol includes screening members of our workforce who have traveled to affected areas, per the CDC, within the applicable time period, or who have had contact with someone who is under investigation for COVID-19 or has been confirmed with the virus. Based on screening results, we will then provide information on immediate next-level care or mandatory leave for employees for up to 14 days, as necessary."

HCA Houston Healthcare
In response to several positive novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the greater Houston area, HCA Houston Healthcare has initiated new visitor policies at its 13 hospitals to safeguard staff and patients at each facility.

  • Effective immediately and until further notice, each HCA Houston Healthcare hospital will allow two visitors at a time per patient. Visiting hours are 6AM to 6PM.
  • Under the new visitation rules, one visitor can stay overnight with laboring mothers, NICU and pediatric patients.
  • Entry points at each HCA Houston Healthcare hospital also are now staffed to screen visitors based on the health system's protocols for identifying and assessing for COVID-19.
  • Additionally, all visitors to the hospital will be screened by answering a series of questions about recent travel and current health.
  • Each hospital will maintain a separate employee entrance.
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