Monday, November 23, 2020

By Dimitra Trejo

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – With COVID-19 cases surging again globally, UTRGV health experts say it is just as important as ever to follow safety guidelines this Thanksgiving.

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. And stay 6 feet away from others.

Dr. Michael Dobbs, UT Health RGV chief medical officer, said the COVID-19 situation in the Rio Grande Valley is increasingly more dangerous.

“In addition, the whole state of Texas just passed 1 million cases,” he said. “We must continue to practice the safety guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”


The CDC this month issued new information regarding the wearing of face masks, Dobbs said.

“Wearing two-layer face masks is very effective in preventing the transmission of this disease and other respiratory diseases,” he said. “It’s been common sense, but science is proving it: When you wear a two-layer mask, you effectively protect yourselves and those around you.”

The Valley has been observing pandemic safety protocols since March, but with Thanksgiving looming, with its big, traditional meals and get-togethers with friends and family, health experts warn it is far too risky to gather this way.

“Don’t become a close contact,” Dobbs said.


“A close contact is someone who has been around a person with COVID-19 for 15 minutes in a 24-hour period,” Dobbs said.

“It’s not hard to be a close contact. For example, if you go to a family gathering and sit close to a relative, and the next day he or she says, ‘Hey, guess what. I have COVID-19 and didn’t know it’ – if you sat next to that person for 15 minutes, you are a close contact,” Dobbs said.

“Maybe you sat next to the person for five minutes, got up, and came back for 10 minutes. You are still a close contact,” he said.

Dobbs suggest using this time of social distancing to do things differently.

“I know we are tired. We have been experiencing COVID-19 fatigue,” he said. “I myself have experienced my own kind of COVID fatigue. But that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. Try doing things differently this year. Have a virtual thanksgiving dinner, rather than a traditional one. And keep your spirits up. We should be getting back to a more normal life in a few more months.”


Even a fundamental hygiene practice – washing your hands – can be an effective weapon against contracting or spreading COVID-19. The CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

“It’s really important to do this, especially if you’ve been in a public place or have handled things in public settings, like door pulls, light switches or objects on store shelves,” Dobbs said.

“And if you’ve been in public, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth until you can wash your hands or use a good hand sanitizer,” he said. “CDC recommends one with at least 60 percent alcohol content.”

The CDC has a detailed list of when it is especially important to wash your hands:

  • Before eating or preparing food.
  • Before touching your face.
  • After using the restroom.
  • After leaving a public place.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After handling your mask.
  • After changing a diaper.
  • After caring for someone who is sick.
  • After touching animals or pets.


Experts recommend not traveling this holiday season. But the CDC says those who are still planning to travel should check the COVID-19 infection rates in the area they plan to visit. Consult state, local or territorial health department websites for the risk level.

If you do travel and plan to visit one of UTRGV’s campuses or sites when you get back, the university asks that you first review the Daily Self-Screening/Reporting Process.

UT Health RGV continues to provide COVID-19 testing to the community. To make an appointment, call the UT Health RGV Patient Communications Center at 1-833-UTRGVMD.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.