In the 4th of July weekend update I urged everyone to take increased care over the holiday weekend and to avoid crowds. Since then the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Houston has continued to rise. A good website to track coronavirus activity in Houston is www.tmc.edu. In response, Governor Abbott has issued two new executive orders that require the use of a face covering in most public spaces, both indoors and outdoors, and limits outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people.
This week, I want to discuss confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Rice community. On March 5, 2020, a Rice employee tested positive, the first confirmed case in Houston. Over the last four months we have had a cumulative total of 44 positive cases in the Rice community (34 staff, 2 faculty and 8 students). Only one of the forty-four cases may have resulted from a person-to-person transmission on the Rice campus. We have a rigorous case management protocol for people who are symptomatic or were exposed, and a dedicated team of people who help with testing, contact tracing, treatment, isolation and quarantine. As a result, we have been very successful in mitigating the transmission between people while on campus. And fortunately, there have been no fatalities. Beginning in August we will post these and other statistics daily on the Rice COVID-19 website to provide our community with a shared understanding of the environment.
While we will report population-level statistics on this dashboard, please know that we will not disclose any individual’s private health information. We will continue to adhere to legal privacy requirements, and identifying information will only be available to those who have a need to know in order to provide appropriate accommodations or to track the virus. We have had reports of some employees discussing particular cases in front of other employees. This is never permissible and violates Rice policy. If you have questions about what information can be discussed publicly, please consult the Human Resources Office.
In order to continue slowing the spread of the virus, we will be collecting a range of information from our employees and students over the coming months, including testing results, health surveys, contact tracing and information collected on those with symptoms through the Rice University Health Reporting Form. All of this information will be treated as confidential and shared only as needed.
Faculty, staff, and students should heed the guidance of the Crisis Management Team and the team’s contact tracers regarding quarantine and isolation protocols. This guidance must not be contradicted or overruled by school, division, or departmental personnel, and to do so would be a violation of Rice Policy. These decisions are being made to protect the health and wellbeing of our entire Rice community.
Later this week, President Leebron will announce Rice’s plans for the Fall semester.
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration