The University of Texas Medical Branch has been closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19. We also have been planning around the clock regarding our response as an education and research institution, as an employer and as a health system.

We are sending daily updates to employees and students via email that also are posted on our COVID-19 website that everyone can access.

I want to offer some personal comments for the UTMB Health family and for the communities we serve.

COVID-19 will challenge us in ways hurricanes, floods and other emergencies have not. It demands that we be flexible as we face rapid change. It requires us to make decisions quickly and then refine our decisions as information changes. (In the case of COVID-19, that is almost daily.)

Many of those decisions will be tough calls, but they all will be based on these guiding principles, consistent with our mission:

• Protecting patients, students, employees, volunteers and the community;

• Preventing exposures through social distancing and limiting non-clinical activity on our campuses;

• Preserving access to the outstanding care in our hospitals and clinics; and

• Sustaining our financial stability for the long-term success of our mission.

Based on data that we have analyzed, we are preparing for an anticipated surge in cases in our region. We must reduce the rate at which COVID-19 spreads, so the patients with most severe illness can have access to the best care our region offers.

That task can feel daunting, but there are some simple measures we can all take right now. So, in addition to the most advanced science in our Galveston National Laboratory, we champion evidence-based common sense. I hope you are familiar with these tips. They bear repeating:

• Wash your hands — a lot! — with good old soap and water.

• Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

• Clean and disinfect surfaces daily.

• Choose social distancing at work and at home.

• Rely on credible sources for COVID-19 updates.

Simple tactics are sometimes the most difficult to practice. But practice them we must. Through institutional and individual action, we can make a difference over the course of the pandemic.

We have so much going for us, including our world-class infectious diseases program, our specialized Biocontainment Care Unit and its highly trained team, a health system that has been a source of health and healing for more than a century and a workforce and student body that are second to none in terms of commitment, skill and ability to rise to this challenge.

We will continue to work hard in the days and weeks to come. We will be stressed and tired. We will disagree from time to time. And, we will roll up our sleeves in true UTMB fashion, working together to support each other and serve our communities throughout the pandemic. Please know how deeply I personally appreciate each and every one of you. I can’t think of a better team to make a stand against COVID-19.

Take care of yourself. Take care of your family and colleagues. And be well.

Dr. Ben G. Raimer is interim president of the University of Texas Medical Branch.


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