COVID-19: FAQ

Visitation at GRMC

Under normal circumstances, Guadalupe Regional Medical Center welcomes our patients’ visitors 24/7. We know in-person visits provide support and reassurance for patients and families alike. At GRMC, we pride ourselves on being a patient- and family-centered organization. But the COVID-19 pandemic is a difficult time for all of us. Times have changed quickly and dramatically due to the virus. As a patient-centered hospital, we must do everything we can to prevent the spread of this disease and protect our patients, staff and visitors. In order to do this, our new visitor policy puts strong limits on visitors entering our hospital and outpatient care facilities during this pandemic.

Why can’t I visit my loved one now?
COVID-19 is a contagious disease. It spreads quickly and can be dangerous, especially to people who are seriously ill or living with chronic conditions. A person can have COVID-19 with mild symptoms and unknowingly spread it to others. When fewer people enter the hospital, there is a greater likelihood that more patients, doctors and care providers will stay safe and well. We also need to save our limited personal protective equipment for our hospital staff so that they can care for your loved ones.

How can I support my family member?
We encourage phone and video visits. Our care staff can help set this up. When you follow our policy, you are taking an active role in keeping your loved one safer, while also supporting the well-being of other patients and staff. If hospital patients need items brought from home, they can only be essential items, such as hearing aids, glasses, dentures, communication devices (mobile phones, laptops, chargers), and small, inexpensive spiritual or religious items. Each area has a specific location for dropping off items.

Keeping Our Patients Safe During COVID-19

Guadalupe Regional Medical Center has a long-standing commitment to the health care needs of our community. Our commitment to safeguarding the health of our patients, visitors and staff is our highest priority. This is why we are taking extra measures to minimize this risk of exposure for yourself and others to ensure our commitment to giving you a safe, reliable place to receive care.

Guided by our quality and infection prevention experts and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have taken a number of steps in addition to our standard rigorous infection control measures to ensure our facilities remain safe places for you to confidently receive care.

ICU Intensivist, Bhupinder Sangha, MD speaks candidly about the measures being taken within the ICU to protect patients and staff amidst COVID-19.

Screening, Masks and Hand Sanitizer

Screening for COVID-19 Symptoms: We screen all patients, and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, when you arrive, you and anyone with you will also be asked about any cough, fever and other symptoms of respiratory virus infection that you or others in your household may be experiencing. Staff are also screened for COVID-19 symptoms each day.

Masks for Staff:  All staff wear masks. The type of mask staff members wear is determined by the type of care they provide, to best ensure their safety and the safety of our patients.

Masks for Patients and Visitors: All patients and anyone with them will be asked to wear a mask or cloth face covering while in our health care facilities. You may bring your own, or if you don’t have one, face masks are available at each entrance

Hand Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer is available at each entrance and at numerous locations throughout each building. Everyone is asked to sanitize their hands when they enter the building. In addition, each member of our health care staff sanitizes their hands before and after each patient encounter.

Cleaning, and Reorganization

Common Areas: Areas such as waiting rooms, lobbies and restrooms are cleaned often with special attention to frequently touched surfaces including doorknobs, armrests and handrails.

Patient Rooms & Exam Rooms: These are fully cleaned and disinfected between each patient.

Floor Markings and Furniture Rearrangement: We have made special arrangements to support social distancing. You may see markers on the floors to show where people should stand for check-in and check-out. We have rearranged furniture in some waiting areas to create more space between patients.

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. Patients with COVID 19- have mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Some patients develop pneumonia and a small amount of these patients have fatal cases.

What to know about the COVID-19 Vaccine

  1. How has the vaccine been developed so quickly? Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are two diseases caused by coronaviruses that are closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers began working on developing vaccines for these diseases after they were discovered in 2003 and 2012, respectively. None of the SARS vaccines ever made it past the first stages of development and testing, in large part due to lack of interest because the virus disappeared. One MERS vaccine (MVA-MERS-S) successfully completed a phase 1 clinical trial in 2019. Lessons learned from this earlier vaccine research have been used to inform strategies for developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
  2. Will I experience any side effects from the vaccine? You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection.  Common side effects you may experience are pain and/or swelling on the arm where you get the shot, fever, chills, tiredness or headache.  Side effects may feel like flu but they should go away in a few days.
  3. Is the COVID-19 vaccine made from the coronavirus? The vaccine does not contain the coronavirus.  The vaccines in development in the United States teach our immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.
  4. Can the COVID-19 vaccine give me COVID-19 illness?   None of the vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
  5. If I have had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated? There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Until we have a vaccine available and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes recommendations to CDC on how to best use COVID-19 vaccines, CDC cannot comment on whether people who had COVID-19 should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  6. Will I still need to wear a mask after I receive the vaccine? While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.
  7. Who should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine? Most people are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, once supplies allow for their priority group to be vaccinated. But, a few groups of people should not get the vaccine, and some others should consult with their doctor or follow special procedures.
    • People who should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine
      • Anyone with a severe allergy to a vaccine component (i.e., one that causes anaphylaxis or requires medical intervention)
      • Individuals with a history of severe allergy to any vaccine or injectable medication
      • Those younger than 16 years of age
      • People currently isolating or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; these people can get vaccinated once they are finished isolation and their primary symptoms have resolved.
    • People who may get the vaccine after consulting with their healthcare provider and considering risks and benefits
      • Pregnant women or women attempting to become pregnant
      • People with certain immune-compromising conditions
      • Breastfeeding women
      • People on anticoagulants
    • People who should follow special procedures
      • Someone with a history of severe allergy (requiring medical intervention) to anything other than a vaccine or injectable medication can get the vaccine, but they should remain at the vaccination location for medical observation for 15 minutes after receipt of the vaccine.
      • Pregnant women who develop a fever after vaccination should contact their provider.
      • People who recently had COVID-19 and were treated with antibody-based therapies (e.g., monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma) should wait until 90 days after treatment to be vaccinated.
      • People with a known COVID-19 exposure should wait until their quarantine is over before getting vaccinated (unless they live in a group setting, such as a nursing home, correctional facility, or homeless shelter, in which case they can be vaccinated during the quarantine period).
      • People who got another vaccine (non-COVID-19 vaccine) should wait at least 14 days before getting COVID-19 vaccine. Likewise, if a person got the COVID-19 vaccine, they should wait at least 14 days before getting any other vaccines (non-COVID-19 vaccines).
Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

Testing can be performed at a variety of places including physician offices, Urgent Care Centers, and hospitals. However, testing should only be performed on those with symptoms that meet the criteria set forth by the Centers for Disease Control which include fever, cough, sore throat, new shortness of breath, have traveled to/from China, Japan, Iran, South Korea, Italy or Europe OR attended large gatherings, such as conferences or sporting events, OR had contact with a person confirmed for COVID-19 infection within the last 14 days.

How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?

Practicing proper hygiene is vital to containing the spread of COVID-19 since the illness is predominantly spread between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes with the crook of your arm. It is important to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Forgo shaking hands with people for a while, they will understand. At this time, CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. People are thought to be the most contagious when they are they are most symptomatic (the sickest).

How to quarantine if I have been exposed to COVID-19

Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.

Instructions for how to quarantine

Has anyone local tested positive for COVID-19?

For more information on the number of cases reported in Texas counties please see the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Website.

In what ways has GRMC prepared for COVID-19?

Guadalupe Regional Medical Center is carefully monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and has a preparedness plan in place for identifying, triaging, and treating patients with suspected COVID-19. We are in close contact with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (aka TDHHS) via a daily call and are monitoring Centers for Disease Control recommendations as this scenario unfolds. GRMC is actively partnering with local emergency responders and STRAC (South Texas Regional Advisory Council) on emergency preparedness in addition to communicating with the local medical community. GRMC is ready to activate emergency response measures if necessary.

GRMC will continue to:

  • Follow updated guidance from CDC/TDHHS for the management of Persons Under Investigation for COVID-19;
  • Use CDC recommended methods of disinfecting our facility with a focus on high-touch areas;
  • Take care of our patients and staff by providing education on updated CDC recommendations for use of personal protective equipment and other infection control measures; and
  • Educate our community on hygiene practices that support containment.
How can people concerned about the virus get tested locally?

COVID-19 testing differs by location. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first. You can also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing. For more information visit the Texas Department of State Health Services or the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What should you do if you think you have COVID-19?

If you are experiencing fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you should contact your health provider. If you plan to visit your doctor or local ER, call their staff ahead of time about your symptoms as they may alter their usual visit practices during this time.

What can I do if I don’t have a local doctor and I want to be tested?

If you don’t have a local doctor you can call the GRMC physician referral line (830-401-7401). Testing will be determined by the physician. If you are feeling ill and have the symptoms described (question #1) you can visit an Urgent Care Center or come to the Emergency Room for severe symptoms.

Can children and babies also be tested for COVID-19?

Children and babies can be tested if they meet the criteria and a physician orders the test. Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

Is there a process to follow when coming to the ER if I think I’m sick with COVID-19?

If you believe you are sick with COVID-19 you should first call your local healthcare provider. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. There is no treatment specifically approved for this virus. If you have severe enough symptoms that you feel you need to be seen in the Emergency Room, please call ahead by dialing (830) 379-2411 and the operator will connect you to the Emergency Room. The Emergency room will direct you on how to proceed.

Is it safe to come to the hospital for lab work, imaging or a procedure?

GRMC is taking precautions to ensure a safe environment for patients, staff and physicians. All people entering the facility will be screened for signs of respiratory illness.

Board-Certified anesthesiologist, Dolores Major, MD speaks about the measures implemented at GRMC to keep patients and staff safe from COVID-19, and reassures the community that they can continue to schedule and take care of necessary surgical procedures that their physicians recommend.

Who can I talk to for more information?

Please contact your local healthcare provider for information or access up-to-date information from the Centers for Disease Control. You may also dial 2-1-1 to contact the Texas Department of State Health Services. You can find more information on the website for the Centers for Disease Control Frequently Asked Questions