Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
We constantly monitor the COVID-19 situation on campus, which has been quite encouraging over the past two months. But over the past few days, there’s been a significant rise in the number of positive cases reported in our community – about 145. Over 90% of the positive cases are undergraduates, with about half occurring in two residential colleges. The vast majority of these positive test results have been reported not through Rice testing, but rather through the self-administered antigen tests that were distributed across campus earlier this semester. While most of the people who tested positive have symptoms, we know of no serious illness among Rice community members.
As we have done since the start of the pandemic, we are shifting some policies in response to this rise in cases in order to help keep our campus healthy. Since the overwhelming number of new cases are occurring among undergraduate students, the steps detailed below are intended primarily to stop the spread of the virus among that population.
Mask policy. Effective immediately, everyone in a classroom is required to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status, except for instructors while lecturing.
We’re are also encouraging – but not requiring – everyone to carry masks at all times on campus and use their best judgment on when it’s appropriate to wear a mask. For people who have special health concerns or want a higher level of protection, a well-fitted KN95 mask offers good protection for the user and significantly better than cloth and disposable surgical masks. We have a good supply of masks which you can order here.
Residential college dining and public events. Large college parties are canceled this weekend. The Dean of Undergraduates is meeting this evening with college magisters and student presidents to discuss modifications to events and event planning for the remainder of the semester in the colleges. Students should look for updates from college leaders.
Students can continue to eat indoors in college commons and surrounding areas but at half the designated occupancy. Masks may be removed only when actively eating. We continue to encourage outdoor dining when the weather permits.
Also effective immediately, the Pub will be closed. Valhalla will remain open, but patrons will be allowed to gather only outdoors.
Testing. We have rapid/antigen tests available on campus and have expanded our PCR testing capacity to include symptomatic and asymptomatic testing this Saturday. If you are experiencing symptoms, please take an antigen test or schedule a symptomatic PCR test through the coronavirus.rice.edu page. We recommend you take an antigen test to make sure you’re not COVID positive before attending any large event. Residential colleges should have antigen tests already available for pickup. Graduate students and employees can request tests for pickup here.
COVID Report Form. If you think you’ve been exposed, are experiencing symptoms or you’ve tested positive, please fill out a COVID Report form. This form offers information about how to manage your situation and also provides Rice’s Crisis Management Team with information about the broader picture of our campus health.
Special events. Our Crisis Management Team will work with planners of large indoor events to help mitigate risk.
We will continue to carefully watch the COVID-19 picture in our community and take whatever precautions are necessary to keep our campus as safe as possible.
Kevin E. Kirby
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration