Background

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how ill-prepared we were for a novel pandemic event. Our economy was threatened; our health was threatened; and the education of future generations was threatened. But Texas and Texans are resilient. In 2021, with bipartisan support, the 87th Texas Legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 1780 establishing the Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute (TEPHI) as a new state agency housed at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). By law, TEPHI will:

  • Create a trained multi-sector public health reserve of at least 3,100 members across the state.
  • Establish a reliable and secure data analysis infrastructure reinforced by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
  • Create a laboratory testing network to monitor for emerging infectious agents beyond COVID-19.
  • Develop new and operationalize current “work and learn safe” protocols for small and rural businesses, schools, and essential food production.

Collaborating with leaders in public health, science, medicine, and the community, TEPHI will analyze the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and other major biological events to prepare Texas for the next public health emergency.

TEPHI Partners

TEPHI is a collaborative agency with partnerships across numerous state agencies, including; the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), academic institutions, business entities, and community organizations. These partnerships allow for the collection of viewpoints and needs from diverse groups, the creation of a comprehensive state preparedness and response plan, and the strategic placement of key resources and people around the state.

Texas Is Leading the Way

Texas has a footprint, population size, and economy larger than some countries. We are highly diverse: culturally, geographically and economically. Pandemic preparedness needs to be operationalized within the context of local circumstances to ensure the safety and health of all Texans. TEPHI is the agency that will ensure Texas is at the forefront of pandemic readiness and response. Texas is paving the direction for the nation and the world to develop strong and resilient public health systems that can prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.

Other Contributions

Texas CARES is one of the largest longitudinal COVID-19 seroprevalence surveys in the world. Texas CARES is managed by a collaborative team from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, in partnership with Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL), and The University of Texas System. Data collected through Texas CARES continues to provide answers to important questions about antibody response to COVID-19 in our Texas population. This program provides a unique opportunity for participants to track their antibody levels in response to COVID-19 infection and/or vaccination over time.

The Texas COVID-19 Dashboard at TexasPandemic.org was developed by the UTHealth School of Public Health to help Texans understand the data behind the spread of COVID-19.

Texas SARS-CoV-2 Variant Network (Texas SCoV2 Network) is statewide COVID-19 variant monitoring project managed by a collaborative team from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). This program will create a networked partnership between DSHS, academic, commercial, and public health laboratories for high throughput SARS-CoV-2 sequencing and analysis for Texas. The network will enable an efficient and comprehensive approach to identify the presence of known variants of interest (VOI) and variants of concern (VOC) and will provide the capability to identify new variants as they emerge.