COVID-19 response weekly update: Week of February 8

COVID-19 response weekly update

Dear colleagues,

On January 8 President Leebron announced some significant changes to the start of the Spring semester based on the post-holiday surge in positive SRS-CoV-2 infections. We constantly monitor the local COVID-19 environment and adjust our operations and policies accordingly. While numbers of new cases in the Houston area have declined, we remain vigilant as ever, especially considering new, more transmissible variants of the virus are now in the U.S. and the local area.

And on the Rice campus cases have also declined. Over the last seven days, ten people tested positive through Rice’s testing. You can see Rice’s testing statistics, along with isolation and quarantine data, on the COVID-19 website.

Because of these improving trends, today I write with some important operational and policy updates that will take effect on February 15.

  • In-person instruction. Dual delivery of instruction, both in-person and remotely, will resume for those faculty and students who choose to return to the classroom. Classes that were designed as fully in-person, but went temporarily on-line, can return to the classroom at the discretion of the instructor.
  • Undergraduates living on-campus. We are proceeding as planned to welcome back all undergraduates living on campus. We expect that all undergrads choosing to live on campus this semester will be in their residential colleges by early next week.
  • Gathering sizes.
    • Indoors. Group activities of up to 25 people are permitted, but in no case can they exceed the COVID-19 occupancy limits posted outside of each room.
    • Classrooms. Following the Provost-approved recommendation from the Academic Restart Committee, the maximum size of in-person classes will increase to 40. While this is higher than the general limit on indoor gatherings, we believe it is reasonable given the more formal arrangement of classrooms and the fact that there has been no evidence at Rice of SRS-CoV-2 transmission in the classroom. If your class is larger than 40 and you would like to have your class meet in-person, you are required to send a request to the Provost.
    • Outdoors. Group activities of up to 50 people are permitted. Limited exceptions may be granted by the Crisis Management Team.
  • Staff working on-campus. We are allowing a modest increase beyond essential personnel to include staff who can best perform their roles by being on campus. All staff should discuss their work plan with their supervisors.

What remains unchanged are the essential policies that protect all of us: wearing masks, physical distancing, and the requirement for testing if you are coming to campus regularly, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated.

Masks. We have a good supply of masks of all types, including disposable, cloth, and KN-95. The KN-95 mask may offer a higher level of protection than a cloth mask and we are distributing those to students and upon request for faculty and staff. Department and college coordinators can request a mask here. Finally, it is important not only to wear your mask but to wear it correctly. You can find out more about how to properly wear and care for your mask from this CDC information sheet.

We continue to receive complaints about visitors not complying with Rice’s mask requirements. We have posted new signage on campus and RUPD has stopped over 10,000 individuals since the start of the fall semester. If you see someone who’s not wearing a mask, feel free to politely remind them to do so, but do not be confrontational. If the person refuses to comply with the policy, there are a number of ways you can make a report, which you can find at this link. You can also always call RUPD at 713-348-6000. Repeated and willful disregard of this policy has resulted in sanctions.

Rice Community Information Center. To best meet our community needs, we now have two new call center numbers: the English call center is 281-378-5684 and the Spanish call center is 281-500-8085.

Kevin E. Kirby

Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee

Vice President for Administration