COVID-19 response weekly update: COVID-19 testing on campus and mask policy

COVID-19 response weekly update

November 9, 2020

Dear colleagues,

This week I have updates on COVID-19 testing and our policy on masks.

Testing. Over the last seven days, we tested about 4,900 people. Fifteen people from this group tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In addition, one positive test was self-reported from a non-Rice test. Rice’s testing statistics, along with isolation and quarantine data, can be found on the COVID-19 website: https://coronavirus.rice.edu.

The COVID-19 test scheduling process can be accessed at https://coronavirus.rice.edu/testing-resources. At this website, you are able to schedule a testing appointment, cancel or reschedule an appointment, and request the appointment confirmation be resent to you at any time. If you’re not part of our regular testing cohort and for any reason you feel you should be tested, you should sign up. If you are regularly coming to the campus, you are required to be tested. You must bring your confirmation email with a QR code (either on your phone or a printed copy) to check in to your testing appointment.

Symptomatic Testing. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or believe that you have been exposed to someone who is positive, don’t sign up through the regular testing process. We have a special process for anyone who’s symptomatic. Fill out a health report form and you will be guided through the testing process by someone from the Contract Tracing Team.

For additional questions about testing, please contact the Rice Community Information Center at (713) 348-4224 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.) or covidtesting@rice.edu.

COVID-19 Trends in the Greater Houston area. The Rice positivity rate increased to 0.3% for each of the past two weeks. This compares to 4.5% in the greater Houston area, which has been growing over the past month. (You can see these trends on the Texas Medical Center website.) These numbers are a reminder that we must stay vigilant both on and off-campus and engage in personal health practices that protect ourselves and others.

Mask Policy Update. The CDC states that there is growing evidence of the importance of wearing a mask, for both protecting you and others. We’re updating our face-covering policy on campus to require not just any face covering, but specifically, face masks. A face mask must be multilayered, fit snugly against the sides of the face and under the chin without gaps, and completely cover the nose and mouth. It is preferable to have a moldable nose piece and adjustable ear straps to ensure a snug fit. Among the face coverings that are not acceptable under the updated policy are masks made of single-layer material, gaiters, masks with valves, bandanas or any other face covering that does not fit properly and leaves gaps.

Face shields and eye protection offer extra protection and they’re always a good idea, but on the Rice campus, they must be accompanied by a face mask. (Exceptions may be granted by the CMT and the Provost for special teaching circumstances.)

Face masks must be worn indoors and outdoors at all times except:

  • Indoors – When you’re alone in your own enclosed office, which is used only by you, or when you’re in your own residential dorm suite.
  • Outdoors – When you’re alone in your personal vehicle, or when you’re eating or drinking (although while you’re eating or drinking, you must stay at least six feet away from others).

Kevin Kirby
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration