Today, March 10, 2020, Harris County Public Health (HCPH), in partnership with Harris Health announced a call center resource for residents in unincorporated Harris County who do not have a healthcare provider and who need access to coronavirus-related care. Beginning on Tuesday, March 10th, the Ask My Nurse line will provide help with access for symptoms assessments and referral to appropriate levels of care in a clinical setting. Harris County will also staff a call line with public health staff who will be available to answer questions from the general public about coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Residents without access to healthcare can call the triage line for COVID-19-related questions at 713-634-1110 from 9am-7pm, 7 days a week. Nurses will be available to provide care in both English and Spanish. (Please note: Harris County residents with access to health care are asked to use their provider for further evaluation and clinical advice to ensure this limited resource is reserved for those without access.)
“Coronavirus does not discriminate between those who have access to health care and those that do not,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “We’re leaning forward on addressing this challenge by using every tool we have available to slow and mitigate the impact of this virus. As part of our response, we must fill gaps to ensure that concerns about access to care do not prevent folks who may need care from coming forward and being screened, monitored, and tested if necessary.”
“Preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses is a shared responsibility among all of us,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, executive director and local health authority for HCPH. “We know there are many residents who have questions and that there are often barriers for care. This call center will help provide factual information to alleviate fear, dispel rumors, and be a place where we can point our community to additional COVID-19 resources.”
In addition to providing this triage service for those without access to care, Harris County will also be expanding its capacity to answer questions for the general public regarding COVID-19. For the latest call center phone numbers for Harris County, Fort Bend County, the City of Houston, and the State of Texas, residents should visit www.ReadyHarris.org or www.hcphtx.org.
Call centers do not replace information or guidance from healthcare providers. Residents who feel sick and believe they may have been exposed should contact their provider (call before going), describe symptoms, and travel history or contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. To date, there are 2 confirmed positive cases and 2 presumptive positive cases in unincorporated Harris County. Currently, all cases are associated with travel to Egypt.
Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread through respiratory droplets. Harris County residents are reminded to take the same measures that are recommend annually to prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory viruses.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick. Keeping a sick child at home prevents the spread of illness in the school and community and allows your child an opportunity to rest and recover.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
While HCPH understands residents may be concerned, evidence so far suggests that most people who have become infected with COVID-19 only experience mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People at higher risk for serious complications are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
HCPH advises the public to call their local health department for questions as information and guidance may vary. Regional resources for both clinical-related questions and general questions about the virus are available below:
For Fort Bend County Residents:
Fort Bend County Health & Human Services | www.fbchealth.org/ncov | 281-633-7795 (This number is M-F from 8:00am to 5:00pm)
For Galveston County Residents:
Galveston County Health District | https://www.gchd.org/ | 409-938-7221 (This number is M-F from 8:00am to 5:00pm)
For Brazoria County Residents:
Brazoria County Health Department | https://www.brazoriacountytx.gov/departments/health-department | 979-864-2167 (This number is staffed M-F from 10am to 6pm, and Sat. 9am to 2pm)
Harris Health System:
www.harrishealth.org | Ask-My-Nurse | 713-634-1110 (This number is 9am to 7pm, everyday clinical-related questions only)