HISD: Several people are on self-quarantine after traveling abroad

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In a statement Monday night, HISD reminded families there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, but announced that several people have been placed on a 14 day self-quarantine.

"Acting out of an abundance of caution, several individuals have been placed on a 14-day self-quarantine," HISD said in a statement. "All self-quarantine individuals recently returned from a country on the CDC travel warning list or are closely related to someone who did. Schools will be identified specifically if cases are positively confirmed."

As a precautionary measure, the impacted schools will undergo deep cleaning and sanitation, including fogging all the rooms with disinfectant and cleaning all air ducts.

"For all other schools, HISD is continuing to follow its standard procedure for routine cleaning and disinfection of schools, with special emphasis placed on disinfection of door handles, desks, and other frequently touched areas, as suggested by local and state health officials and the Texas Education Agency," HISD said.

Custodial teams are also making sure all schools and buildings are properly stocked with needed supplies.

The teacher's union is begging districts across the Houston area to think ahead and make a plan specifically for employees who may have to self-quarantine because of the coronavirus.

During a conference Monday, union leaders called for schools to announce their plans if the virus begins to spread through a district.

The time recommended for quarantine is 14 days and the concern is some teachers, hourly employees and contract employees may not have enough time to cover that and may have to go without pay.

Another issue discussed was employee safety. When it comes to employee safety, concerns were raised over the type of cleaning products used, urging the use of stronger ones and also asking for protective gear for custodians who are doing the cleaning.

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Here is what HISD and other area school districts are doing to prevent and address coronavirus on campus.

As we continue to monitor cases in the area, Memorial Hermann Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center announced that they will be making changes to its visitor policy.

"Memorial Hermann is modifying its visitor policy and implementing a restricted access protocol across all Memorial Hermann acute-care and rehabilitation hospitals and Convenient Care Centers, effective Tuesday, March, 10, at 7 a.m. until further notice," the hospital wrote on their website.

The announcement is made days after 11 healthcare workers who were in direct contact with one confirmed patient went into self-quarantined for 14 days, as recommended by the CDC.

"We are working closely with the Houston Health Department to effectively manage this potential exposure and ensure the safety of our employees and physicians," the hospital stated.

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MD Anderson Cancer Center similarly made changes to its visitation policy, limiting the number of visitors on its campus. Here are the policy changes:
  • Inpatient, ICU, EC, Pediatrics: Two visitors at a time.
  • Pre-and post-operative procedures: If a patient is being discharged home, their primary caregiver will be called to the recovery area for discharge instructions. Otherwise, visitors should remain in the waiting area.
  • Outpatient clinics (reception area and exam rooms): Only two healthy visitors who do not have symptoms are allowed to accompany patients in our ambulatory areas, including Houston-area locations, effective immediately.

MD Anderson also advised visitors that they may be asked screening questions multiple times during your stay.

"We are asking visitors who have traveled - or have a household member who has traveled - to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea in the past 14 days to kindly postpone visiting our campuses when possible," MD Anderson added.

If you're searching for more information about coronavirus (COVID-19) that has affected thousands, the Houston health department is setting up a call center to help answer your questions.

The health department says the call center will be available starting Monday.

Anyone with questions will be able to call in on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They will also be returning voice messages left after hours on the following day.

Houstonians can call the center at 832-393-4220 and talk to department staff to obtain information about the virus.

While COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus, these are some daily precautions recommended by the Houston health department to prevent respiratory illnesses are the same:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don't have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve
  • Don't use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick and keep children home when they are sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Get a flu shot. (Although the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, it is flu season.)
  • People who recently returned to the United States from international travel need to monitor for fever, cough and difficulty breathing for at least 14 days and seek medical care right away if they develop symptoms. Before going to a doctor's office or emergency room, symptomatic people with a history of international travel must call ahead to tell the healthcare professionals about their recent travel and symptoms.

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

  • Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
  • Houstonians may visit HoustonEmergency.org for updated information about local risk, routine protective actions, frequently asked questions, communication resources, rumor control, emergency preparedness tips and more.


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