COVID-19 response important policy updates: August 10

COVID-19 response weekly update

Dear colleagues,

The COVID-19 situation in the Houston area continues to worsen with the highly transmissible delta variant. One good source of information about the Houston area can be found at the Texas Medical Center website.

Vaccination status of Rice community. All undergraduate and graduate students who will be enrolled at Rice for the fall 2021 semester, including those who will study in an online or remote format, must fill out this form, if they have not already. All faculty and staff must review and update their current vaccine status by completing this short form no later than August 15.

Thanks to everyone who has already helped by filling out our vaccine survey; 88% of our core population of approximately 12,000 has responded, including incoming students. We need the rest of you to respond by the end of the week. The results as of today are:

% Responding to Survey % of Total Population (12,000) Reporting Vaccination
Undergrad Students 98% 94%
Grad Students 80% 74%
Faculty 84% 81%
Staff 89% 82%

We still anticipate an overall vaccination rate of over 90% for our campus community when the remaining survey responses are provided this week and we include incoming students (mostly international) who are not yet vaccinated but indicate they intend to get a vaccine when they arrive in Houston. So far, approximately 160 people (1.3% of our total population) who have filled out the survey have indicated they do not intend to be vaccinated.

Questions about vaccination status of individuals. Many questions have been raised by supervisors and faculty about whether it is permissible to know the vaccination status of individual staff and students. The General Counsel’s Office offers the following guidance:

  • The university can require students to provide their vaccination status, but it cannot require documentation from students under state law. (Students can voluntarily provide the university documentation of vaccination in order to qualify for COVID testing once every two weeks instead of twice a week). This information is considered an education record under FERPA and thus is protected information under federal law, and it can be shared by the university only in a limited manner that addresses a legitimate educational need. Faculty may not ask students about their vaccination status and vice versa; this prohibition includes students who are engaged in either coursework or research.
  • For faculty and staff, vaccination information is considered confidential under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, and it can be shared only on a need-to-know basis. The university may provide vaccination status to supervisors on a need-to-know basis so that they can enforce the university’s COVID-19 policies.

Health Report Form. Health report forms, in English and Spanish, are available from the main COVID at Rice page. Rice students, staff and faculty should complete these forms if they’re concerned that they may have been exposed to COVID. If a Rice student, faculty or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they should complete the Health Report Form and await guidance from the Rice Contact Tracing Team. Until you’ve been contacted by a member of the Rice Contact Tracing Team, please wear a mask and avoid direct contact with others.

The CDC advises that any fully vaccinated person who experiences symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19 and be tested for SARS-CoV-2 if indicated. Fully vaccinated people should be tested three to five days following known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. They should avoid direct contact with others and wear a mask in public indoor settings until they receive a negative PCR test result. If you must interact with the public, either in an indoor or outdoor setting, the recommendation is to wear a mask and maintain a physical distance from others.

Testing. Our large-scale testing program will ramp up again for the fall semester with Baylor Genetics, Methodist Hospital, and our own LAMP testing. To schedule a test visit: Additional times and locations will be added as our testing partners come online over the next week. As a reminder:

  • Fully vaccinated people coming to campus, and coming into routine contact with others, must schedule a test at least once every two weeks.
  • Unvaccinated people who come to campus, or those who have not answered the vaccine survey, must test twice per week, regardless of whether they come into contact with other people.

Unvaccinated students returning to campus should test upon arrival and again three to five days following their first test, then begin testing twice weekly. Vaccinated students should schedule a test within their first two weeks of arrival on campus to begin their once every two-week testing regimen.

Human Resources Questions. Faculty and staff who have questions about how the updated policies and guidance may impact their work environment should contact their supervisor. Human Resources Business Partners are available to assist and can be reached at this address:

Vaccine clinics. We urge every member of our community to get vaccinated if they have not already done so. This is the single best thing each of us can do for our own health and the health of our community. We will facilitate access to vaccine clinics, on or close to campus, in the coming weeks. Further details are forthcoming.

Testing results. During the past seven days, we administered approximately 300 tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus on the Rice campus. Three people tested positive through the university’s testing program. We have also received reports that four Rice people tested positive elsewhere over the past week.

Communications. The COVID-19 website continues to serve as our main platform for updates, policy decisions, test scheduling access, frequently asked questions and other critical COVID-related information. The testing statistics dashboard is not active yet, but it will be soon.

On this website, you can also find additional communications for specific groups of people such as last week’s messages from the Dean of Undergraduates and the Dean of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies. The Provost will send an additional message regarding instruction later this week.

Kevin E. Kirby

Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee

Vice President for Administration