COVID-19 Response weekly update: Oct. 3

COVID-19 response weekly update

Dear colleagues,

I write to share good news and some additional changes to our COVID-19 policies.

The Delta wave continues to substantially diminish in Houston and we’re seeing the same very positive trend on campus. Over the past seven days we’ve run about 6,900 tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus through Rice testing and there were 11 positive results for a positivity rate of 0.16%. The testing dashboard can be found on the COVID-19 website.

Over the past two months, the overwhelming majority of the people with positive test results had minor symptoms, similar to a cold or flu, and none have been hospitalized. This is consistent with the strong evidence that vaccines prevent serious illness. At least 92% of our campus community has been vaccinated, and we continue to encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so.

Vaccine Clinics. Rice is again partnering with the Houston Health Department to offer Pfizer vaccines on October 13, 14 and 15 in the East Gym of Tudor Fieldhouse. There will be approximately 400 vaccines available each day for first or second doses, and booster shots for those who are eligible as defined by the CDC and who previously received the Pfizer vaccine. The clinics are open to all Rice community members and their families. Details and registration information will be forthcoming this week.

Testing. Because of these positive trends, we are making some changes to our testing requirements, effective today:

  • Faculty and staff who are vaccinated must test once every two weeks (instead of the prior requirement to test weekly).
  • Students (graduates and undergraduates) must continue to test once a week while we evaluate the effect of the policy changes below. We expect to reduce this frequency in a few weeks if the current low positivity rate continues.
  • All unvaccinated people must continue to test twice a week.
  • You may test more often at your discretion.

You should be scheduling your regular test here. If you have any COVID-like symptoms at all, do not schedule a test through our on-line portal. Instead, you must fill out a health reporting form and the Rice contact tracing team will be in touch to schedule a symptomatic test.

Indoor Dining. We are removing capacity controls related to indoor dining on campus, including in residential college dining facilities. All spaces can have tables and seating that are standard to that space, and there are no longer restrictions on table occupancy (in other words, people sitting at tables can use the normal number of seats). The mask requirement remains in place – you can remove your mask indoors while you’re actively eating or drinking, but you should keep it on at all other times.

Outside Rentals. Rental of campus facilities to outside groups can now resume.

If we continue to see an improving COVID-19 environment, we expect to continue rolling back more of the COVID-19 policies over the next few weeks.

Kevin E. Kirby

Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee

Vice President for Administration