Coronavirus Update 3/25/2020

covid-19

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 11:26am

We write to let you know that an order issued by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has imposed significant new restrictions on public activities in our area in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The “Stay Home, Work Safe” order basically decrees that everyone in Harris County should stay at home through April 3, 2020, except when they’re performing certain essential activities. Exceptions are provided for people working in a number of specific businesses or engaged in certain activities outlined by the county judge and in federal guidelines referenced in her order. (A copy of the order can be found at this link, and the federal guidelines can be found in the PDF version at the bottom of the page.) Among those classified by the Department of Homeland Security as part of the nation’s essential critical workforce are educators supporting universities “for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, if operating under rules for social distancing.”

As you know, Rice has already taken dramatic steps to decrease the density of the campus population in an effort to slow the spread of this virus. Our faculty and students have shifted all classroom activities to remote instruction, most of the students who were living in our residential colleges have moved off campus and most Rice staffers who can do their jobs remotely are working from home. Faculty who are currently using their offices or existing classrooms to deliver their courses online can continue to do so, provided they abide by the university’s guidelines for social distancing. Rice Online and IT support staff will continue supporting instructors with online course delivery.

Now, in order to comply with the letter and the spirit of the county judge’s order, we’ve taken further action to reduce the number of people on campus, discontinuing more activities on campus and modifying services that are still offered.

The only research activities allowed until further notice will be COVID-19 related research and activities that sustain research animals, cell lines and plants that cannot be readily reproduced. Maintenance of critical equipment and animal welfare operations will continue under the Shared Equipment Authority and Animal Resource Facility respectively.

All public dining options on campus are closed until further notice.

These campus services essential for the health and safety of the university are still operating: the Rice University Police Department; Rice EMS; Environmental Health and Safety; Student Health Services; Housing & Dining, and Facilities, Engineering and Planning. In addition, all campus offices are providing services remotely or are being offered in modified form, including:

  • Cashier’s Office (modified schedule)
  • Delivery Services (modified schedule)
  • Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (offered remotely)
  • Human Resources (offered remotely)
  • IT HELP Desk (offered remotely)
  • OISS (offered remotely)
  • Parking Office (modified schedule)
  • Registrar’s Office (offered remotely)
  • SAFE (offered remotely)
  • Shuttles (mostly stopped; modified schedule for a few routes)
  • SPARC (offered remotely)

For further information on these services, please refer to department websites or contact the departments directly.

Rice remains committed to providing instructors with the environment, tools and personnel they need to deliver their courses remotely. Instructors can schedule time with a Rice Online course designer by emailing riceonline@rice.edu or calling Rice Online at 713-348-8700. For tech support, please call 713-348-4989. Faculty are encouraged to send any other questions or concerns to clevande@rice.edu.

We want to thank everyone for their patience and flexibility during this difficult time in our university’s history. If you have any questions about anything regarding Rice’s response to the COVID-19 situation, please consult our website at https://coronavirus.rice.edu/. If you don’t find the answer to your questions there, please don’t hesitate to call the Rice Community Information Center at (713) 348-4224.