News Release

Texas Health and Human Services Commission

Phil Wilson
HHS Executive Commissioner
Date:March 16, 2020
Christine Mann, 512-424-6951

HHS Provides Expanded Guidance to Hospitals to Prevent Spread of COVID-19 in Texas

March 16, 2020

Updated as of 4:05 p.m.

AUSTIN – To protect vulnerable hospital patients from COVID-19, Texas Health and Human Services has issued guidance to hospitals that now includes granting access only to essential visitors such as authorized caregivers acting specifically on a patient's behalf.

"At the direction of Governor Greg Abbott and effective immediately, we are asking hospitals to prevent non-essential visitors from access given the significant health and safety risk to patients posed by COVID-19," said David Kostroun, HHS deputy executive commissioner for Regulatory Services. "These measures are precautionary and based on the state disaster declaration made by Governor Abbott."

This guidance applies to general hospitals, special hospitals, and private psychiatric hospitals, excluding outpatient clinics operated by hospitals.

Essential visitors include government personnel; one designated caregiver acting on the patient's behalf, such as a parent of a minor or a legally authorized representative; patient family members no more than one at a time; clergy members authorized by the hospital; and additional family members of patients at the end of life or presenting at the emergency department, subject to hospital policy.

"We understand these new restrictions will be difficult for patients and their families and loved ones," Kostroun said. "We must take every measure to protect patients, as well as hospital personnel who are on the front lines in the battle against this new virus."

Hospitals also should implement screening protocols for any essential visitors entering their facility.

Texas HHS is working closely with the Office of the Governor, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the Texas Department of Emergency Management, and other state and federal agencies to monitor and assess the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

Hospitals in Texas are required to maintain strong infection prevention and control programs to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. If a hospital believes a patient, visitor, or employee might have been exposed or infected with COVID-19, it is required to immediately report it to the local health department or to DSHS.

During this rapidly evolving situation, the agency is also issuing updated infection control guidance for other licensed entities such as child care operations and long-term care facilities. All regulated providers are encouraged to stay up-to-date on the latest guidance by visiting the Texas HHS COVID-19 page.

Texas HHS licenses and regulates 703 general, special, and private psychiatric hospitals throughout the state.

For health-related information and general precautions on COVID-19, visit the DSHS website and the CDC page.