Participating in clinical trial during COVID-19
Last updated August 23, 2021
The delta variant is highly contagious and causing an increase in COVID-19 infections nationwide. People who are unvaccinated are at greatest risk of infection, and cancer patients face a greater risk of severe illness.
Get vaccinated to reduce your risk of infection and complications. The protection provided by vaccination far outweighs mild side effects that you may experience at the time of your vaccination.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for cancer patients. MD Anderson is administering COVID-19 vaccines to our patients and community members. Patients should get the vaccine wherever it is available to them. If you have received the vaccine, please send a picture of the vaccination card through MyChart so it can be stored in your electronic medical record. For the most up-to-date information and resources, visit our COVID-19 vaccine page.
For the most up-to-date information and to learn about additional vaccine doses, visit our COVID-19 vaccine page.
MD Anderson is committed to the safety of our patients, their visitors and employees. We recognize that families and loved ones are an important part of the healing process. While we continue to limit the total number of people on our campuses, we allow adult patients to bring one adult visitor (18 and older) per day. Everyone must pass entry screening and wear a MD Anderson-issued mask at all times.
We will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends to ensure our safety protocols best protect our patients. Our patient visitation policy is subject to change. Before a visit, review our current COVID-19 safety processes on this page.
If you have specific questions related to upcoming appointments or procedures, we encourage you to contact your care team via MyChart.
Our visitation policies prioritize the safety of our patients and may vary depending on care needs and location.
Adult patients can bring one adult visitor or caregiver (18 and older) with them per day. Everyone is required to pass entry screening and must wear the MD Anderson-issued face mask.
To ensure safety, patients with COVID-19 or possible COVID-19 won’t be allowed a visitor. In addition, visitors are not allowed to accompany patients scheduled for symptomatic testing.
If you have questions about our visitor policy, contact Patient Advocacy.
Minors and dependents
Due to safety concerns, patients or their visitor should not bring anyone else with them to an appointment. This includes children under 18 and adults who are unable to care for or move themselves. Appointments will be rescheduled if a patient or visitor arrives with someone who is dependent upon them for care.
Outpatient visitation details
Patients may be able to change their clinic appointments to a virtual visit. Talk to your care team to see if that is an option for you. Learn more at mdanderson.org/virtualvisits.
We understand how important it is to have support when talking about your health. We encourage patients to use their personal mobile device to include family and friends in the visit. Before the visit begins, call them and put them on speaker phone or use a video app, such as FaceTime or Zoom.
Adult patients with outpatient clinic appointments, outpatient procedures or surgeries, and patients receiving care in the Acute Cancer Care Center can bring one adult visitor who passes entry screening. The patient visitor must be able and willing to wear the provided mask.
Pediatric patients are allowed up to two parents or guardians. Parents of pediatric patients should talk with their care team to learn more about pediatric patient visitation.
In outpatient surgery and procedural areas, the patient’s visitor should remain in waiting rooms during the patient’s procedure. Our clinical teams will allow patient visitors in our pre-operative and Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) by exception only.
Some dining areas will be available with additional seating to accommodate patient visitors.
If an outpatient or patient in the Acute Cancer Care Center is admitted to the hospital, their visitor may stay with them only during hospital visitation hours or if the patient meets criteria to have a visitor stay overnight with them. Visitors of hospital patients must pass entry screening and check-in at entry. See more details below.
Visitors of hospital patients
Starting Friday, Aug. 13, we are adjusting our inpatient visitation hours.
Each hospital patient (also called an inpatient) may have one visitor or caregiver per day during the visitation hours:
- Monday through Friday: 4-8 p.m.
- Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Note: There may be long lines to enter the building at the start of visitation hours each day.
Each hospital patient can provide up to two names of people who may be their visitors. Care team members will add these names into our system for reference by entry screening staff. Only one person may visit per day during visitation hours.
All visitors are required to pass entry screening and wear an MD Anderson-issued face mask. Only visitors whose names are in our system are allowed to visit inpatients.
Patients should make sure they give the names of their visitors to their hospital care team. When inpatient visitors arrive, they will need to provide the patient’s first and last name, as well as the patient’s hospital room number. They can also provide the inpatient unit. Our entry screening team will check that the visitor’s name is in our system for that patient, and they’ll ask the inpatient visitor to show identification to verify their name matches our system.
There are specific, limited circumstances where inpatients are allowed to have one adult caregiver stay with them in the hospital. This caregiver is called a boarder. The boarder can stay in addition to the one visitor who is allowed to come during visitor hours.
All inpatient visitors will receive a white wristband with the entry date on the band. No visitor is permitted on the inpatient units without a wristband. Inpatient visitors are asked to stay in patient rooms whenever possible. Once an inpatient visitor leaves the institution for the day, visitation is complete. A visitor can return the next day during visitation hours.
Tips for inpatient visitor parking:
- Monday through Friday: Park in Garage 2 and enter through the Main Building Pavilion entrance.
- Saturday and Sunday: Park in Garage 10 and enter through the Main Building Aquarium entrance.
Valet service is available seven days a week at both entrances from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
These entrances are open for inpatient visitors during visitation hours.
MD Anderson will continue inpatient deliveries of personal items during non-visitation hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. We encourage patients to have their visitor bring any items they need when they come to visit.
The spiritual health of our patients is important. Patients’ personal clergy or chaplains may visit them in the hospital at any time without it counting towards their one visitor per day. Clergy will need to show identification from their organization to the entry screening team and have the name of the inpatient they’re visiting, as well as the room number.
When you arrive, you will be given a face mask and asked to sanitize your hands. Everyone who enters patient care areas must pass entry screening.
You will see COVID-19 screening questions posted and you’ll be asked if you can answer no to the following questions.
- Do you currently have a temperature more than 100.3°F?
- Have you had a cough more than usual, sore throat, or shortness of breath?
- Have you had a fever (more than 100.3°F) or chills in the past 7 days?
- Have you had a positive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test in the past 20 days?
- Has anyone in your household tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
If you answer yes, our entry screen team will help you with next steps. Your appointment may need to be rescheduled if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 20 days, are symptomatic or have had a household member who has tested positive in the past 14 days. Following the 20-day quarantine requirement ensures the safety of other patients and our care teams. Temperature checks are no longer required. We have temperature kiosks and handheld thermometers if needed.
Each adult patient is allowed one adult visitor per day, and visitors must be able to pass entry screening too. The entry screening team will confirm that the inpatient visitor is on the approved list provided by the patient.
Patients and visitors may enter at the following locations on our Texas Medical Center campus:
- Main Building, The Pavilion valet entrance
- Main Building, The Aquarium valet entrance
- Main Building, Garage 10, Floor 3 skybridge
- Mays Clinic, East Lobby valet entrance
- Faculty Center, Floor 3, near Garage 17 entrance
Download the TMC Entry Points map.
The Rotary House skybridge is open so patients and visitors can walk between the Rotary House and the Main Building after being screened. The Rotary House skybridge is open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Entry points at our Houston-area locations, imaging clinics and laboratory centers remain the same.
MD Anderson-issued face masks are required
Everyone is asked to wear MD Anderson-issued face masks at all times. Every patient, visitor and employee will be given a face mask when entering our campus. For your safety and that of other patients and our employees, we ask that you wear this mask the entire time you are on our campus. This will replace your cloth mask or a mask you brought from home.
Patients who are admitted to our hospital are asked to wear face masks during transport and procedures, and when a staff member is within 6 feet.
To ensure safety, clinical teams may order MD Anderson COVID-19 testing for patients before their surgery and some procedures, and certain treatments. COVID-19 vaccination does not eliminate the need for testing in these medical situations.
Outside test results are helpful to your care team but will not replace MD Anderson COVID-19 testing if your care team determines you need it.
If you have been tested for COVID-19 by nasal swab outside of MD Anderson, share a copy of your results with your care team before your appointment. For example, you can attach an image of the result and send it to your team using MyChart.
Patients who test positive for COVID-19 need to quarantine for 20 days before they can return to MD Anderson, provided they have been fever-free without use of fever-reducing medicines for 24 hours and other symptoms are improving. Care teams will reschedule appointments until after patients complete their 20-day quarantine. The test date is considered Day 1 of the 20-day quarantine. We are using the CDC's maximum quarantine recommendation because it is indicated for people with severe underlying illnesses or immune compromise, which describes many of our patients.
Faster medication pickup
Our outpatient pharmacy team offers curbside medication pickup at the Texas Medical Center Campus at the following locations:
- Main Building:
- Weekdays: Pick up is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Park in Garage 2 and enter through The Pavilion entrance
- Weekends: Pick up is available upon request. Park in Garage 2 and use The Aquarium entrance.
- Mays Clinic:
- Weekdays: Pick up is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Park in the Mays Clinic Garage and then enter through the Mays Clinic, East Lobby.
- Weekdays: Pick up is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Park in the Mays Clinic Garage and then enter through the Mays Clinic, East Lobby.
- Rotary House: near the Garage 17 entrance
Patients must call ahead, and the team accepts payment by phone prior to pickup. They should call the pharmacy if they have questions about this process.
For inpatients, our pharmacy team is delivering their medications at the bedside so patients have what they need before they are discharged.
All café services will be grab and go or customer assisted. Salad bars and self-service of bulk foods will remain closed. Utensils and meal accompaniments will remain individually packaged or server assisted. Cashless payment is encouraged.
Social distancing will continue to ensure safety.
These locations have full service during operating hours:
- Café Anderson
- Main Building, Floor 5, express wall
- Café in The Park
- Light Bytes
- Waterfall Café
- Cool Beans Coffee Bar
- Tradewinds C-Store
- Freshbrew Market (all locations)
- Simple Spoon (West Houston and The Woodlands)
The Learning Center patient library in Mays Clinic, Floor 2, is open for patients and their visitors. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patients and visitors will be asked to keep their distance and sanitize hands before reviewing materials to reduce the spread of infection.
You can protect yourself and prevent the spread of infection by:
- Get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for cancer patients and reduce the risk of severe infection.
- Wear a mask.
- Refraining from touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using an antiseptic hand gel.
- Keep your distance. Avoid crowded areas.
MD Anderson is providing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations to
the Houston community.
Last updated April 8, 2021
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, you probably have a lot of questions about coronavirus vaccines. Are they safe? Can you still get infected with COVID-19 if you've been vaccinated? How soon will you be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine and get back to some semblance of a normal life? When can cancer patients get vaccinated?
For answers to these COVID-19 vaccine questions and more, we spoke with our chief medical executive Welela Tereffe, M.D., infectious diseases specialist and head of Internal Medicine David Tweardy, M.D., and infectious diseases and infection control specialist Elizabeth Frenzel, M.D.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for cancer patients?
Tereffe: After careful review of all available scientific evidence, our clinical experts have determined that the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are safe and recommended for former and current cancer patients.
Patients currently receiving chemotherapy, immunotherapy, CAR T cell therapy, stem cell treatments or participating in clinical trials can still receive the vaccine. Check with your provider for vaccine timing recommendations prior to scheduling.
The vaccines are safe for patients in treatment but will likely be more effective if timed in coordination with the treatment schedule.
If you are a current or past breast cancer patient, ask to receive the vaccine in the arm opposite of your breast cancer site. This will help support your immune response and lessen lymph node enlargement. Enlarged lymph nodes can falsely affect cancer screening and diagnostic imaging results up to 6 weeks after vaccination.
Patients who have recently had surgery should wait for 2 weeks after their surgery date to receive the vaccine.
All other patients can proceed to schedule a vaccine appointment without contacting MD Anderson for further guidance. Patients who have received a vaccine at another health care provider should let their care team know.
When will MD Anderson offer the COVID-19 vaccines to patients?
MD Anderson is administering a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines for our cancer patients. We will vaccinate patients with one of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA, depending on the supply we are given by the state of Texas.
As we receive more vaccine supply, we will invite additional
outpatients in phases to self-schedule their COVID-19 vaccine in
MyChart. Patients will receive both MyChart message and text
notifications when new COVID-19 vaccine clinics are open for
It’s important to continue taking precautions such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands frequently, even after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. These precautions will be necessary until public health experts advise otherwise.
Will people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 be able to get vaccinated?
Frenzel: Since reinfection is a possibility, vaccination is expected to provide added protection for those who’ve recovered from COVID-19. However, you should wait to get vaccinated until your symptoms of infection have resolved and you have completed the quarantine period recommended by the CDC. In addition, if you received monoclonal antibody therapy or convalescent plasma to treat your COVID-19 infection, you should wait 90 days after receiving those treatments to be vaccinated.
After symptomatic infection, natural immunity appears to persist for
at least 3 months. Therefore, you could choose to defer vaccination
for 90 days if you desire. If your infection was asymptomatic, it
should not factor into your decision to be vaccinated since you may
not have effective immunity.
How do the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work?
Tweardy: Our cells use messenger RNA (mRNA) to produce the various proteins our bodies need to function. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both use an mRNA sequence that codes for the unique spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Once a person receives the vaccine, their cells take up that mRNA sequence and produce the COVID-19 spike protein. Their immune system then detects those proteins as foreign and creates antibodies against them, which helps provide protection from future COVID-19 infections.
Currently, both of these vaccines require two doses given a few weeks apart to be effective.
How does Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine work?
Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine uses a modified adenovirus containing the part of the coronavirus' DNA that encodes the spike protein. It targets the really important part of the virus — the protein spikes that stick up like little maces all over its surface — instead of the virus as a whole. It prompts the body to generate the spike protein itself. Once that happens, the immune system recognizes it as an invader and starts developing antibodies against it. So, when the real coronavirus comes along, these antibodies can shut it down.
Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires only one dose.
What makes the mRNA approach used by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines so different from that of previous vaccines?
Tweardy: This is the first time this type of technology has ever been used for a vaccine. And the speed at which it is being developed is truly mind-boggling.
Remember, this particular coronavirus was virtually unknown in November 2019. The actual syndrome caused by it was only first described in December 2019. A month later, scientists had isolated the virus and sequenced its genome. That’s something that used to take a full year or more. Two months later, we had the first COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Four months after that, some were already in Phase III clinical trials. And we’ll have a coronavirus vaccine available to health care workers in December 2020.
We’re living through a modern scientific miracle. Vaccines have not been developed at this speed before. Vaccine development usually takes 10 to 15 years after the identification of a new infectious disease. I’ve been working in infectious diseases for 40 years, and I never would’ve thought it was possible.
Could this same mRNA vaccination method be used again against future coronaviruses?
Tweardy: Absolutely. This strategy has the capacity to almost let us anticipate the next strain of coronavirus so we can be prepared for it, kind of like we do now with the flu.
We could sequence the next coronavirus that’s identified as distinct and separate from this one in a month or less. Once we had that, we could insert the sequence of its spike protein into every step of the vaccine development pathway. That could get us another vaccine for testing within three months.
With this family of coronaviruses, that could potentially allow us to have a vaccine ready before the next one even becomes a pandemic. So theoretically, we could stop the next pandemic in its tracks.
Are the coronavirus vaccines safe?
Tweardy: Yes. I think anyone who gets a coronavirus vaccine that has received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can have confidence that it will be safe, and that the benefits of being vaccinated will outweigh the risks. Otherwise, it wouldn’t receive an EUA. The FDA has been looking at this very carefully, and each vaccine has had to be tested on a lot of people to get authorized for emergency use.
COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus similar to SARS and MERS, and researchers were able to build upon previous work creating vaccines for these diseases as they searched for a vaccine against COVID-19. mRNA has been studied for many years in relation to the study of infectious diseases and as an area of opportunity in cancer treatment.
COVID-19 is the third in a series of coronaviruses. After SARS and MERS, we understand the pathogenesis and early aspects of immunity and have learned from those experiences and taken that knowledge to target the weak spot of coronaviruses.
Even more closely watched than the efficacy of the vaccines in the clinical trials is the safety of the participants. For the FDA to consider an application for emergency authorization of a vaccine, more than half of the people enrolled must have been monitored for at least two months. Preliminary data shows the observed side effects are very similar to the flu vaccine, such as pain at the injection site and fatigue.
The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee comprises experts in medicine and research who meet to review the request for EUA of a vaccine, and these experts evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Clinical trial participants will continue to be followed even after any EUAs are granted.
Is it safe to get a diagnostic imaging exam, like an MRI or CT scan, after you get a COVID-19 vaccine?
If you need a diagnostic imaging exam that includes your axillary lymph nodes, talk to your doctor to see if it is medically appropriate to delay the exam for 6 to 10 weeks after your COVID-19 vaccination. Your body's immune response to the vaccine may cause temporary inflammation of your axillary lymph nodes and interfere with your imaging exam.
Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if you're pregnant or breastfeeding?
Frenzel: Safety data isn't yet available on vaccine-associated risks
during pregnancy or the effects of COVID-19 vaccines on breastfed
infants or on milk production/excretion. In breastfeeding women, mRNA
vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfed infant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness should they get COVID-19, and their babies may be at risk for adverse outcomes like preterm birth. For these reasons, women who are pregnant should consult with their health care providers to evaluate their personal risk of contracting COVID-19 as they consider whether to undergo vaccination. The decision is yours and should be based on available safety information and thoughtful consideration of the risks versus benefits of vaccination.
How long will the coronavirus vaccines be effective?
Tweardy: We’d obviously love for it to give lifelong immunity against COVID-19, but that remains to be seen, as many people in the clinical trials are still in the follow-up period. We believe at least three months, if not six months or more. More data is coming and will guide us for future planning. If I had to guess, I would say it’s probably going to fall somewhere between influenza and the mumps, in terms of longevity of protection. It will probably be closer to the flu, because respiratory viruses don’t tend to lead to long-term immunity.
What are the chances that a person who gets vaccinated can still get infected with COVID-19?
Tereffe: We know from the data so far that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines confer about 95% effectiveness after the second dose – meaning there were a few people who still experienced a symptomatic COVID-19 infection after their full course of vaccination. Among those who did experience a symptomatic infection, the vaccine helped prevent serious symptoms and hospitalization. We don’t have meaningful data on asymptomatic infections in the trial groups. That means that we don’t know if vaccinated people could still carry the virus and transmit it to others, without having symptoms themselves.
These are very highly effective vaccines – for comparison, the flu vaccine we get is 50% to 70% effective and it still has a big impact each year. It will take some time, but widespread vaccination have a big impact on slowing the spread of COVID-19.
- Insights from a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participant
- COVID-19 vaccines and mammograms: What to know
- What counts as COVID-19 exposure?
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Blog posts related to MD Anderson's response to COVID-19
Last updated July 30, 2021
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, several variants of the virus have emerged. But the one named delta is now the most severe of them all. This highly contagious variant was first identified in India in December 2020. Within six months, it spread to 85 countries. Now it's in all 50 of the United States, where it's become the dominant strain of COVID-19 .
Infectious disease expert David Tweardy, M.D., answers questions about this newest variant.
What is the delta coronavirus variant?
Originally known as B.1.617.2, the delta variant is the most infectious version of the COVID-19 virus to date. It was first identified in India in December 2020, where it quickly overwhelmed that country’s health care system.
How widespread is the delta variant in the U.S.?
It’s becoming more widespread every day. Infections nationwide tripled in July, from about 13,000 cases per day to more than 56,000.
How contagious is this variant?
It’s extremely contagious, more than any other variant. Preliminary research suggests that the delta variant spreads from person to person more swiftly than the common cold or chickenpox.
SARS-CoV-2 is the original coronavirus that mushroomed out of Wuhan, China last year and led to the COVID-19 pandemic. Variants quickly emerged, including Alpha, which was first identified in the U.K. Alpha is estimated to be 50% more contagious than SARS-CoV-2. Delta is estimated to be 50% to 60% more contagious than Alpha.
What makes delta more contagious than other strains?
Delta infects people with a heavier virus load, which means they exhale more virus particles for others to catch. The delta variant’s mutations are also believed to make it more effective at attaching itself to cells in human airways.
Does it cause more severe illness than other variants?
Scientists are still investigating this, but a study published in The Lancet medical journal estimated that the risk of hospitalization after infection with delta could be 85% higher than with alpha.
In China, doctors are reporting that patients with the delta variant are sicker than those they treated early in the pandemic. And their condition seems to go downhill much faster. Recent Scottish studies suggest that people infected with the delta variant are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized as those infected with the alpha variant.
Does the Delta variant cause any unusual symptoms?
COVID-19 delta symptoms include headache, fever, sore throat – the same as those caused by other variants and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, two typical COVID-19 symptoms are absent in delta patients – cough and loss of smell.
Who’s most at risk for the delta variant?
People who are unvaccinated.
In the United Kingdom, where delta is the dominant strain, studies showed that children and adults under age 50 are more than twice as likely to become infected. This is the age group with the lowest vaccination rate.
Will current COVID-19 vaccines work against the variant?
Yes, absolutely. We know that vaccines protect people against the delta variant. But a single dose doesn’t offer as much protection. It’s vitally important to follow up and get that second dose.
What about breakthrough infections?
It is possible that vaccinated people can still become infected with the delta variant, but those infections are infrequent. When they do occur, they're likely to be far less severe than infections in unvaccinted people. The vaccines have proven to be highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, but they are not 100% guaranteed to prevent you from getting the virus.
Can vaccinated people pass the delta variant to others?
New research suggests that vaccinated people who are infected with delta, even those who display no symptoms, may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Early studies show that infected vaccinated people have viral loads similar to infected unvaccinated people.
That's why the CDC has updated its mask-wearing guidelines and is now recommending that vaccinated people who live in high-transmission areas resume wearing maskes indoors.
Can we expect future delta mutations?
Viruses are built to mutate. With each mutation, a new and stronger variant can emerge. The best way to prevent this is to vaccinate as many people as possible. Variants are less likely to emerge when a pandemic is brought under control.
Do the COVID-19 vaccines protect immunocompromised cancer patients and survivors?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for cancer patients. Most people with cancer or a history of cancer are advised to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplant, or immunotherapy can affect the immune system, which might make the vaccine less effective. People with cancers of the blood or lymph system can also have weakened immune systems which might lessen the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Despite this, we still recommend vaccination for cancer patients. Getting some protection from the vaccine is better than not having any protection. Every situation is different, so talk to your doctor about vaccine timing and the risks and benefits.
Young children can’t get vaccinated. What about them?
The FDA has not yet approved vaccines for children younger than 12 years. Children ages 12 and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. Parents should vaccinate their children as early as possible and, if they’re not eligible for vaccination yet, continue to take precautions, such as masking and social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control is now also recommending that all teachers, staff and students wear masks in schools, regardless of their vaccination status.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
If you’ve caught and recovered from the coronavirus (COVID-19), you might be wondering what that means. Are you immune to the virus now? Can you go out in public without wearing a mask? Is it safe to travel or attend large gatherings? Do you still need to practice social distancing?
We checked with our infectious diseases and infection control expert Roy Chemaly, M.D. He shared these four Dos and Don’ts to help guide you.
1. DON’T assume you’re immune from COVID-19
The most important thing to do is NOT assume you’re immune to the coronavirus, even if you’ve had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis before.
“This disease hasn’t been around for a full year yet, and we’re still learning about it,” says Chemaly. “So, even if you had a severe case and made a full recovery with no complications, we don’t know if natural immunity will protect you or for how long.”
Whether immunity stems from a vaccine or actual exposure to the virus, experts speculate it may still only be temporary. That means people would likely need a booster shot every year to maintain enough antibodies to provide on-going protection.
“If the immune system treats this coronavirus more like the flu than the mumps, immunity may not last longer than four or five months,” adds Chemaly. “It may start off strong and then taper over time, which means people would need to be revaccinated. But it’s too early to say. Nobody really knows yet.”
And, he adds, cancer patients and other immunocompromised patients may not develop antibodies at all — either to natural infection or to vaccinations. So, it’s even more critical not to assume you're safe from reinfection if you fall into one of these groups.
2. DO keep taking all the recommended COVID-19 precautions
It’s equally important to continue practicing all the behaviors experts recommend to prevent possible reinfection, such as hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a mask. It doesn’t just set a good example for others. It’s also crucial to protecting others if there’s even the slightest chance you might still be contagious.
How do you determine if you’re still contagious? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:
- General public/mild infections: Otherwise healthy individuals who did not have severe infections are deemed safe to be around others if 10 days have elapsed since the initial onset of symptoms and they’ve been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.
- Immunocompromised/severe infections: People who are immunocompromised and/or had a severe infection should wait up to 20 days from the onset of symptoms and be symptom-free for at least 24 hours before being around others.
- Severely immunocompromised: These individuals may need to consult with their care teams to ensure additional testing isn’t required before they can start socializing again.
Remaining committed to preventive strategies is especially critical if you’re caring for a cancer patient or someone else who is immunocompromised. Because even if you have immunity, notes Chemaly, they might not. And, you could still pick up a different strain or other germs in public somewhere and then bring them back to your household, inadvertently exposing — and infecting — your loved ones.
“Take the same precautions you would as if you had not had COVID-19,” says Chemaly. “Avoid large gatherings of people, and act as if reinfection is still a possibility. Because it might be.”
3. DON’T forget to disinfect your home
Be sure to clean and disinfect your home thoroughly after you emerge from quarantine. This will help protect the people who live with you from any stray virus droplets that might be lingering on surfaces.
Still, says Chemaly, “You don’t need to wear a mask or stay socially distanced from people living in your own household, once you’ve met the CDC’s criteria for clearance to stop quarantining.”
4. DO consider quarantining yourself again if you’re re-exposed to COVID-19
One of the hallmarks of viruses is that they mutate, or change over time. And just because you’ve developed antibodies to one strain of the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be effective against later versions.
“There’s already some indication that COVID-19 is mutating,” says Chemaly. “We have evidence that the strain in Houston acquired a specific mutation that may make it more transmissible, but not more virulent.”
That’s why it’s still a good idea to quarantine yourself if you think you may have been exposed to someone else who has COVID-19, especially if it’s been more than three months since you recovered from an infection yourself.
“This is all new territory, so there are no guarantees,” says Chemaly. “Quarantine yourself until the incubation period has passed, just to be on the safe side.”
- Holiday travel during the COVID-19 pandemic: Is it safe?
- How to celebrate Thanksgiving safely during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Can an air purifier protect you from COVID-19?
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
To help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and make it easier for patients to see a doctor without leaving home, MD Anderson and many other health care providers are offering virtual visits for many patients.
Existing MD Anderson patients who have a clinic follow-up visit or a consult visit with a new MD Anderson provider may be eligible for a video visit, depending on where they live. Each state has different regulations regarding video visits and the practice of medicine by out-of-state clinicians. Talk to your care team to learn what may be available and best for you.
“Virtual visits offer a convenient way for our cancer patients to continue receiving the outstanding care they have always experienced from their MD Anderson care team, with the added benefit of not having to leave their homes,” says Neema Navai, M.D.
If you’ve never had a virtual visit before, here’s what you should know to get the most out of your virtual visit.
Plan ahead ensure a productive conversation
“Virtual visits offer tremendous convenience since they can be done from anywhere with the click of a button,” says Navai. “But they do require a little bit of planning ahead to ensure you and your provider have a productive visit.”
Whether your appointment is virtual or in person, it can be hard to remember everything you want to discuss with your health care provider.
So, before your appointment, write down your questions, as well as new symptoms and concerns. This will help ensure you don’t forget anything important that you want to discuss during your visit.
Before your virtual visit with your MD Anderson provider, it’s also important to complete the eUpdate process to update your information in MyChart. You can verify your personal details, medications and insurance information up to 7 days before your virtual visit. We recommend doing this 2-3 days before your appointment so these details can be shared with your clinical team in advance. A member of your care team will call you before your appointment to review your list of medications and ensure you’re ready for your video visit.
Download the apps you need in advance
Before your appointment, download the apps you need on the device you plan to use and make sure you can access them correctly.
MD Anderson patients are encouraged to use the MyChart mobile app on a smartphone or tablet for the best video visit experience. You can download the free MyChart mobile app from the App Store or Google Play. You will also need to download the ZOOM Cloud Meetings app to the same device. Newer smartphone and tablets will be able to download the ZOOM Cloud Meetings app; see a list of operating systems that support the ZOOM Cloud Meetings app.
You must use the MyChart mobile app to join a video visit on your smartphone or tablet. You cannot go to our MyChart website from your smartphone or tablet and start your video visit.
While you can use a computer to access your MyChart account at MyChart.mdanderson.org, you may have more technical problems than if you use the MyChart app on a smartphone or tablet. Use our MyChart Video Visit Instructions or call 1-877-632-6789 if you need assistance. You also can watch a video with MyChart Video Visit instructions.
Set the stage for your virtual visit
Just as you’d do for a video call with colleagues, find a quiet, well-lit space for your virtual visit. Be sure to check the background noise and any visuals that may appear around you while you’re on screen.
Test where to direct your gaze on your webcam setup. Look into the camera so your doctor can have a more engaged conversation with you.
Use headphones, if possible
Plan to use headphones or a headset, if you have them. This will make it easier to hear your provider and may improve the sound quality.
If you’re including a household member in your virtual visit or don’t have headphones or a headset, check for background noise and move to a quieter space, if necessary, to eliminate distractions during your virtual visit.
Do a tech check
Before your visit, make sure your device is charged and that you have a strong internet signal or WiFi connection. A higher speed internet connection will help to increase the overall quality of the video and audio during your virtual visit.
It’s also important to confirm that your audio, video and headphones are working at least an hour before your virtual visit. They should work if you’ve recently used your device for other video chats.
“As with any new technology, you may encounter technical issues, but to ensure we can provide a timely and high quality experience, it’s a good idea to test everything before your visit,” says Navai. “You’ll have a better, more focused conversation with your provider if you don’t have to worry about technical difficulties.”
Your virtual visit will last as long as an in-person appointment
Your virtual visit will run a lot like an in-person visit and last about as long. Your provider will ask you questions, covering topics such as new symptoms, side effects and other concerns you may be having, as well as next steps for your treatment or follow-up care.
Use this time to ask questions and share concerns with your provider, just as you would in person.
You can include family members in your virtual visit
Just as you might have brought family members to appointments before visitor restrictions were put into place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you can include family members in your virtual visit. A family member or loved one can provide a second set of ears, take notes and ask questions you might not think of.
If your family member if participating from your home, have them in the same room as you and make sure they can appear on the screen, too, if possible. If you try to include them from another device in the same home, there may be a distracting echo.
Want to include a loved one in your virtual visit from another location? If you're an MD Anderson patient, you can add them through the ZOOM app by following these instructions.
Plan to pay the same co-pay that you would for an in-person visit
You will be charged the same co-pay for your virtual visit as you would for an in-person appointment. But you will not be asked to pay during your virtual visit. Instead, the balance will be listed in your eUpdate after your visit. Your insurance company determines the cost of this co-pay. If you have questions about charges, payments and balances, send a message in MyChart or call 1-800-527-2318.
Know what to do if the connection is lost
Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. Here’s what to do if you lose your connection during your video visit:
- If you can still see your video, keep the video connection active and don’t close the video window. Your provider may be able to rejoin soon.
- If you lose your connection, restart the video visit following these steps. You may be placed in the virtual waiting room until your provider is able to restart the video visit.
- If the video visit can’t be restarted, your provider will call you to complete the visit or provide more instructions. Your provider will call you at the phone number you listed in your eUpdate, so be sure to keep that phone close by.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
“So, if everyone wore these masks properly and consistently, we could reduce the COVID-19 transmission rate significantly and help quell the outbreak,” says infectious diseases and infection control specialist Roy Chemaly, M.D.
But with so many mask options available now, how do you pick the right one to prevent the spread of COVID-19? What factors should you be considering before making a mask purchase? And are there any fabrics or styles to avoid?
We spoke with Chemaly for details on what recent scientific research has shown about the types of mask that work best to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
What’s the best type of face covering to use during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Not all masks are created equal. So, the one that’s best depends on three things: who you are, where you are and what you’re doing.
N-95 respirators without valves provide the most protection against the coronavirus — both for the wearers and for the people around them. But those should only be used by first-responders and health care workers in certain situations, such as those working in close contact with COVID-19 patients, because they are designed to filter out aerosols, not just droplets.
In most other circumstances, the goal of wearing a mask is to reduce the chance of droplet transmission — and disposable, medical-grade face masks and many washable cloth masks are actually quite good at that.
That’s why we tell our patients to wear the paper mask they’re provided while here on MD Anderson’s campus and a good cloth mask when out in public. When worn properly, a cloth mask is sufficient for most people’s needs.
What should I do if my child is exposed to COVID-19?
Breakthrough infections and the COVID-19 delta variant: What you need to know
Does ivermectin prevent or cure COVID-19?
Managing social anxiety: How to regain the ground you’ve lost due to COVID-19
Skin care during COVID-19
Insights from a COVID-19 vaccine trial participant
Are rapid COVID-19 tests accurate?
Is it a cold, the flu, allergies or COVID-19?
Due to our response to COVID-19, all blood donations at MD Anderson
Blood Donor Center locations are being held by appointment only.