UCSF Town Hall

Watch a recording of the Feb. 5, 2020, event, where a panel of experts discussed the science, outlined UCSF’s response, and answered questions about prevention, travel, and occupational and student health.

Frequently Asked Questions

UCSF is vigilantly monitoring and responding to new information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which was declared a global health emergency. UCSF is taking steps to ensure the health and safety of the UCSF community, patients and visitors.

Updated Feb. 28, 2020: In addition to the frequently asked questions below, the University of California system has released an FAQ for the UC community with the latest guidance on travel.

 


What is the 2019 novel coronavirus?

The 2019 novel coronavirus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. The virus has been named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19.

What is the current state of the global outbreak?

Updated Feb. 27, 2020

This is a rapidly evolving outbreak. Facts about the disease, situation updates, guidance for travelers and health care workers, can be found on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coronavirus website. For current information about the total number of confirmed cases worldwide, see this real-time dashboard of 2019 novel coronavirus cases by Johns Hopkins University.

On Feb. 26, 2020, UC Davis reported that it is caring for a patient confirmed to have the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The CDC is investigating this case because it believes this may be the first patient in the U.S. to have received an infection from exposure in the community (“community transmission”).  Patients diagnosed in the U.S. prior to this patient are believed to have received an infection related to travel or close contact with a known infected person.

On Feb. 25, 2020, the CDC issued a warning of the likelihood that the coronvirus (COVID-19) will spread in the United States, given the number of new confirmed cases in countries outside China, where the outbreak began.

While there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in San Francisco residents, Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency on Feb. 25, 2020, as a proactive measure to strengthen the city's preparedness to respond to COVID-19.

On Jan. 30, 2020, the World Health Organization’s declared that the coronavirus outbreak "a public health emergency of international concern."

On Jan. 31, 2020, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar II declared a public health emergency for the entire United States to aid the nation’s health care community in responding to the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Are there any confirmed cases at UCSF and, if so, how is UCSF Health protecting health care workers and the community?

Two patients with confirmed novel coronavirus who had been reported to be transferred to the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights from another California county were discharged in good health.

UCSF Health has provided care to these patients under strict infection-control protocols and has screened others in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Going forward, communications around new coronavirus patients will be provided through the San Francisco Department of Public Health for all hospitals in the City and County of San Francisco, per CDC guidelines to protect patients' privacy.

Taking care of patients with complex illnesses, including infectious diseases, is UCSF Health's expertise and part of UCSF's longstanding commitment to caring for the community. UCSF Health teams are trained and equipped to effectively care for these patients, while also protecting the health of care providers, hospital staff and other patients.

UCSF Health also has instituted a number of additional measures to screen patients with potential coronavirus, as well as to prevent its spread to others by using the infection prevention and control practices, including isolation rooms, recommended by the CDC.

Any patient who may have a respiratory illness, including COVID-19, is immediately given a mask to wear as a way to contain respiratory droplets and to prevent spread of infection to others. COVID-19 spreads through droplets from the nose or mouth, just like the flu. Covering a patient's nose and mouth is the most effective way to control COVID-19.

UCSF Health care providers are using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which they are trained to use for patients with other types of infectious diseases and are completely aligned with recommendations by the CDC and public health departments. An important aspect of PPE use is using the equipment correctly, and removing it after use in ways that avoid self-contamination. Because of this wearing unnecessary PPE can increase the riks of self contamination and of infection.

The UCSF Office of Environmental Health and Safety continues to provide scheduled respiratory protection training. UCSF is giving refresher training to all health care workers caring for or entering rooms of patients with COVID-19.

What is UCSF doing to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus?

Updated Feb. 27, 2020

Teams are working to ensure the campus and UCSF Health are prepared and that faculty, staff, students, patients and visitors are informed about the outbreak. The health and safety of our UCSF community, and our patients and visitors, is among our most important priorities. UCSF remains focused on three primary goals:

  • providing compassionate and safe care for patients with COVID-19,
  • providing support and training to keep our health care workers and other employees safe while caring for these patients, and
  • communicating regularly with and offering guidance to the UCSF community during this fluid situation.

UCSF Health has a proven track record of protecting and safely caring for patients with infectious diseases and severe illnesses and was among the first hospitals to start preparing for a large influx of patients. As a result, UCSF Health has the facilities and protocols in place to enable us to care for these patients, while protecting the health of our faculty, staff, students, patients and visitors.

UCSF Health has has more than 40 airborne infection isolation rooms that can safely isolate patients with COVID-19. It can adapt additional rooms and hospital areas to care for larger numbers of patients if needed.

Are UCSF researchers studying the coronavirus?

Yes. Infectious disease specialist Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, a professor of Laboratory Medicine at UCSF, has been following the disease since it first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. He provided an update on how the coronavirus spreads and progresses for a UCSF story posted on Feb. 13, 2020.

UCSF also posted a Q&A with Chiu about the coronavirus. The San Francisco Chronicle reported about his development of a diagnostic test. Chiu also joined a panel discussion in UCSF's town hall on the coronavirus on Feb. 5, 2020.

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms or mild cold symptoms to people being severely sick, some recovering and others dying.

Symptoms may include fever, cough and sore throat. In some patients, these symptoms can worsen into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Persons who are elderly, immunocompromised, or if have other comorbidities, such as heart disease, liver disease, are at higher risk of developing severe pneumonia and dying from the disease.

Symptoms of the coronavirus may appear in as few as two days or up to 14 days after exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How is the virus spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person to person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. The principle mode of transmission is still thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets that travel up to six feet in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. This transmission is similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Close contact with an infectious person, such as shaking hands, or touching a doorknob, tabletop or other surfaces touched by an infectious person, and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth can also transmit the virus. It is not yet known how long the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces, but based on data from other coronaviruses, such as SARS, it may be for up to two days at room temperatures.

What should I do protect myself against the virus?

This is a rapidly evolving situation worldwide. Members of the UCSF community are encouraged to stay informed about the changing travel advisories and restrictions, guidelines about returning to campus after traveling abroad, as well as simple ways to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases described below. Most importantly, do not come to work or classes if you are sick.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home and do not travel or go to work or school when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash. Then wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

UCSF will continue to communicate with the community and post updates to this webpage as the situation unfolds.

Should I wear a mask?

At this time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and San Francisco Department of Public Health are not recommending that people wear masks. Most often respiratory viruses are spread from person-to-person in close contact or within six feet of each other.

Currently, there is a limited global supply of masks. At UCSF, masks are to be used ONLY by caregivers of patients with communicable illnesses or patients with fever or cough.

The best way to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses is to avoid people who are sick, avoid touching your eyes or nose, and covering up your cough or sneeze with a tissue. People who are sick should stay home and not go into crowded public places or visit people in hospitals. For more information, see the CDC's webpage on respirators.

What is UCSF’s guidance for traveling to or from China?

The U.S. Department of State issued its highest advisory level 4 alerting a “do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus” on Jan. 31, 2020. In addition, commercial airline carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that, upon arrival to the United States, travelers from China will undergo health screening. Travelers with signs and symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) will have an additional health assessment. Travelers who have been in China during the past 14 days, including U.S. citizens or residents and others who are allowed to enter the U.S., will be required to enter the U.S. through specific airports, including San Francisco International Airport, and participate in monitoring by health officials until 14 days after they left China. Some people may have their movement restricted or be asked to limit their contact with others until the 14-day period has ended.

See further guidance on traveling to or from China.

Students and scholars with questions about travel due to this outbreak can also contact the International Students & Scholars Office.

Faculty and staff with questions about travel due to this outbreak can also contact Occupational Health Services.

What about traveling to other countries?

The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving daily and many other countries have reported confirmed cases. See the latest guidance on travel to other countries.

What if I feel I am being treated unfairly, discriminated against or harassed due to fears about the coronavirus outbreak?

UCSF seeks to offer an environment where everyone feels welcome and supported. During this epidemic, it is more important than ever that the UCSF community lives its PRIDE Values: professionalism, respect, integrity, diversity and excellence.

Employees and learners who believe they are being treated unfairly, discriminated against or harassed based on a protected category, including their disability, medical condition, race or national origin, should contact the Office of the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination at (415) 502-3400.

UCSF values all members of our community. In addition, UCSF has counseling services for faculty, staff and learners who would like to talk about their feelings.

Where can I get more information about the virus?

Guidance for Traveling to/from China

Guidance for Traveling To China

UCSF faculty, staff and learners should be aware that the U.S. Department of State issued its highest advisory level 4 signifying “do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus” on Jan. 31, 2020.

In addition to commercial airline carriers reducing and suspending routes to and from China, the U.S. has imposed new travel and quarantine measures.

Before these developments, University of California President Napolitano directed the UC community to temporarily “avoid all non-essential travel” to China on Jan. 30, 2020 when the travel alert was at level 3.

The UCSF campus and UCSF Health were required to develop a review and approval process to determine if travel to China is absolutely essential or if it can be postponed. UCSF’s prior review and approval process for travel to China is provided here.

Notably, University of California restrictions do not apply to travel that is solely personal, but such travelers should be aware of travel risks and of federal government warnings on any type of travel to and from China.

Members of the UCSF community may send questions to [email protected], a dedicated email account that is monitored by Emergency Management staff. This email account is the central point of contact for questions about the coronavirus.

Approval Process Prior to Travel to China

All non-essential travel to China is restricted until further notice. All travelers who would like to engage in essential travel to China (defined in the following categories) must obtain prior approval as follows:

Faculty

Faculty essential travel is defined as that which is required to:

  • Preserve the safety of a research subject and which is not possible to be postponed; or
  • Preserve the results of a research activity and which is not possible to be postponed.

By way of comparison, faculty essential travel does not include travel to attend educational conferences. This is just one example of non-essential travel and does not include all other activities that would also be considered non-essential travel.

To request approval to engage in essential travel, faculty should contact their Dean in writing. Such travel may only be approved by one of the school Deans. The Deans may consult with the UCSF Emergency Operations Center.

Staff

Staff travel is considered non-essential.

To request an exception to the determination that UCSF-related travel to China for staff is non-essential, staff should contact in writing one of the following offices depending on where they are assigned: Chancellor (for staff in the University Development and Alumni Relations, office of Communications, Community & Government Relations, Diversity and Outreach, Legal Affairs, Science Policy & Strategy, and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer offices); Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost; Deans; UCSF Health CEO; or Senior Vice Chancellor Finance & Administration. Such an exemption may only be approved by one of the University officials listed above. University leadership may consult with the UCSF Emergency Operations Center.

Students and Trainees (Clinical and Non-Clinical)

Student and trainee essential travel is defined as that which is necessary to meet a graduation requirement and which is not possible to be postponed.

To request approval to engage in essential travel, students and trainees should contact in writing the Dean of their respective school or of the Graduate Division. Such essential travel may only be approved by the Dean of the relevant school or the Graduate Division. The Deans may consult with the UCSF Emergency Operations Center.

Deans of the schools and the Graduate Division are responsible for ensuring that students and trainees are aware of this requirement, and Department Chairs and institute/Organized Research Unit directors are responsible for ensuring that their faculties are aware of and adhere to this requirement.

Guidance for Traveling From China

Updated Feb. 7, 2020

Individuals entering the United States on flights from China are subject to a proclamation from the White House and should not return to campus for 14 days.

For Returning Faculty, Residents, Fellows and Staff

The procedure for return from China is as follows:

1)  Do not return to campus for 14 days after your departure from China. Contact your supervisor to discuss your work arrangement.

2) Obtain on the first day of your arrival back to the U.S. a coronavirus symptom self-monitoring questionnaire from UCSF Occupational Health Services (OHS). It could be an attachment or hard copy depending on the circulation method.

3) Begin to monitor and record daily the symptoms of infectious disease on the first day of arrival. This includes taking your temperature twice daily.

4)  Within 24 hours of returning to the United States, send an email to OHS or contact OHS by telephone at (415) 514-7666 indicating the following:

  • Your name, phone number and the date you departed China,
  • Confirm that you are asymptomatic,
  • Confirm that you have begun self-monitoring, and
  • Confirm that you are not returning to campus.

5)  OHS will follow up with 48 hours and thereafter regularly until you are able to return to campus.

6) Submit the completed self-monitoring questionnaire to OHS by email to [email protected]

For Returning Students

The procedure for students returning from China is as follows:

1)  Do not return to campus for 14 days after your departure from China. Contact your professor(s) to discuss academic accommodations.

2) Obtain a coronavirus symptom self-monitoring questionnaire from from Student Health & Counseling.

3) Begin to monitor and record daily the symptoms of infectious disease on the first day of arrival. This includes taking your temperature twice daily.

4)  Within 24 hours of returning to the United States, send a secure message to the Student Health Nurse or contact the Student Health Nurse by telephone at (415) 476-8736 indicating the following:

  • Your name, phone number and the date you departed China,
  • Confirm that you are asymptomatic,
  • Confirm that you have begun self-monitoring, and
  • Confirm that you are not returning to campus.

5) Student Health will follow up withing 48 hours and thereafter regularly until you are able to return to campus.

6) Submit the completed self-monitoring questionnaire via secure message to the Student Health Nurse.

More information for recently returned travelers from China can be found on the CDC website.

Guidance for Traveling Internationally

Updated Feb. 26, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is evolving daily and many other countries outside China have reported confirmed cases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which regularly updates its travel health notices website, uses the following system for conveying risk of travel to a country or parts of a country:

Warning Level 3 (Red): Avoid all non-essential travel to this destination. The outbreak is of high risk to travelers and no precautions are available to protect against the identified increased risk.

Alert Level 2 (Yellow): Practice enhanced precautions for this destination. The travel health notice describes additional precautions added or defines a specific at-risk population.

Watch Level 1 (Green): Practice usual precautions for this destination as described in the travel health notice and/or on the destination page. This includes being up-to-date on all recommended vaccines and practicing appropriate mosquito avoidance.

In addition, the CDC has described some countries as "other destinations with apparent community spread." Community spread means people have been infected with the virus, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. At this time, the extent of the virus spread is not sustained or widespread enough to meet the criteria for a travel health notice. If that changes, the CDC will update the travel health notices webpage.

As the global outbreak continues, many international travel restrictions have been imposed that can change rapidly. For the latest information on travel and airline restrictions, visit WorldAware, UC's travel and risk management partner. 

UCSF reminds all faculty, staff and students to:

  • Register your travel with UC Away if traveling on official University business or for academic reasons, such as research, rotations, practicums and conference presentations on UCSF research;
  • Purchase individual travel insurance if traveling for personal reasons or vacation;
  • Sign up for travel alterts through the U.S. Department of State
  • Consult with your health care provider or visit a travel clinic to ensure your vaccinations are current and for travel-related advice;
  • Confirm all flight, train and bus reservations with your service providers.

If you become ill while traveling, call the emergency phone number on your travel insurance card (obtained by registering for UCSF travel insurance or by purchasing personal travel insurance.)

UCSF Risk Management and Insurance Services has travel resources including travel insurance, travel registration and UC Trip Planner, available for both business and personal use.

Messages to the UCSF Community

February 25, 2020

Update on UCSF's Response to the Coronavirus

The Office of UCSF Health sent this message to the UCSF community:

"While there still are no cases of coronavirus in San Francisco residents, Mayor London Breed today declared a state of emergency as a proactive measure to strengthen the city's preparedness to respond to COVID-19. We want you to know that we have been working closely with our public health counterparts across the city and state, as well as with the CDC, since the coronavirus outbreak began in December 2019."

Read the full message


February 7, 2020

UCSF Police Safety Bulletin, Update #2

UC San Francisco continues to monitor and respond to developments regarding the global novel coronavirus epidemic, including updating its guidance for all members of the UCSF community entering the U.S. from flights from China.

Importantly, faculty, residents, fellows, staff and students returning to the U.S. on flights from China are subject to a proclamation from the White House and should expect not to return to campus for 14 days. Please see specific instructions for travelers returning from China on UCSF’s coronavirus website.

As with any illness, if you have a fever or feel sick, please stay home.

The health risks for spreading novel coronavirus to the general population remain low. To date, 12 confirmed cases have been reported in the U.S., mainly among people who have recently traveled from the Hubei Province area of China.

As a reminder, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend use of face masks for the general public. UCSF is reserving masks for patient care.

For those who were unable to attend or watch UCSF’s town hall on coronavirus, a video is now publicly available.

Members of the UCSF community can find more information on UCSF's coronavirus website. Those with questions about 2019-nCoV are asked to please email [email protected].


February 3, 2020

2019 Novel Coronavirus

Chancellor Sam Hawgood and Mark Laret, President and CEO of UCSF Health, sent this message to the UCSF community:

"As of this morning, two patients with confirmed nCoV were transferred to UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights from another California county. Taking care of patients with complex illnesses, including infectious diseases, is our expertise and part of our commitment to caring for our community. UCSF Health teams are trained and equipped to effectively care for these patients. In addition to our standard infectious disease protocols, we are instituting a number of additional measures to screen patients with potential nCoV, as well as prevent the coronavirus's spread."

Read the full message


January 30, 2020

UCSF Police Safety Bulletin, Update #1

UC San Francisco continues to monitor developments regarding the global novel coronavirus outbreak, and has launched a website to serve as a source of news and information for the UCSF community.

“We will continue to monitor the emerging situation and are working closely with colleagues at the San Francisco and California Departments of Public Health to coordinate efforts across health facilities,” UCSF Health Chief Clinical Officer Josh Adler, MD, said in a statement to the UCSF community.

The website has guidance about symptoms, prevention, patient screening, counseling resources, travel restrictions and recommendations that is specific to UCSF, as well as links to local, state and federal public health agencies, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although the health risk for Bay Area residents remains low at this time, UCSF’s Infection Prevention and Emergency Management teams are working together to ensure the campus and UCSF Health are prepared and that members of the UCSF community and patients are informed about the outbreak which the World Health Organization today declared a global health emergency.

Currently, UCSF is unaware of any faculty, staff and learners in China, where there are more than 8,000 confirmed cases. There also are no confirmed cases of patients diagnosed with coronavirus at UCSF or in the Bay Area. UCSF Health is prepared to safely care for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infections using the infection prevention and control practices recommended by the CDC, the California Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Adler reminds individuals that they can take a few simple steps to prevent the spread of respiratory infections, including the flu, such as frequent hand washing. Importantly, if an individual is experiencing a fever or flu symptoms, they should not come to school or to work. Read more about infectious disease prevention and treatment on the CDC website.

UCSF infectious disease expert Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, explained the origins of the Wuhan virus and public health risks in a Q&A posted last week.

To date, five cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States in Arizona, California, Washington and Illinois. Globally, in addition to China, where the outbreak was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, about a dozen other countries have confirmed 8,235 cases of coronavirus. The death toll stands at 171. For the most recent numbers and a visual representation of all confirmed cases worldwide, use this interactive tool developed by Johns Hopkins University.

By comparison to the flu, this week the CDC reports that 8,200 people have died from influenza in the United States this season, with 15 million cases counted so far and 140,000 hospitalizations.

UCSF will continue to monitor the coronavirus outbreak and will keep the UCSF community informed as the situation unfolds. Please look to the website for updates.


January 23, 2020

Information Regarding Novel Coronavirus and Flu

UCSF leaders sent this message to the community:

As you likely know from news coverage, a new respiratory illness associated with a novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, in late December, and has now affected more than 500 people. Although most infections have been identified in China, several have occurred in individuals who traveled to Wuhan City and returned to other countries, including cases in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and one in Washington State.

Read the full message

Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Prevention

UCSF Health is prepared to safely care for patients with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

UCSF Health's Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Prevention is partnering closely with the San Francisco, Alameda, and California Departments of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and has put the latest recommendations and protocols into place. 

UCSF Health's comprehensive plan includes screening and education for patients and health care personnel at the Parnassus Heights, Mount Zion, Mission Bay and Oakland campus locations.

For more information, please visit the Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Prevention website.

Important Resources