COVID-19 Update: January 16, 2022

COVID-19 response weekly update

Dear colleagues,

We’re beginning to see data from different sources in the Rice community and in Houston to lead us to believe that the current COVID-19 wave is cresting or just beginning to decline. And we still know of no serious illness among Rice community members who have tested positive.

Thus, we will return to in-person course delivery on Jan. 24 as previously announced.

Instructors who want an exemption from face-to-face teaching should use the same process announced at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester and must do so by Jan. 20. That is, petition the vice provost of academic affairs, who will work with the Disability Resource Center and Human Resources to process requests based on the following overarching categories:

  • Significant medical issues as defined under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) that may allow for a reasonable accommodation.
  • All other nonmedical issues.

Exemptions within these categories are expected to be based on one or more of the following medical and nonmedical issues, namely that the faculty member:

  • Has medical issues, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system, and/or is at a significantly higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19;
  • Has a household member in the above high-risk group;
  • Has a household member who cannot be vaccinated.

It is important that all instructors are as accommodating as possible as they manage student absences related to illness. Our collective goal should be to keep people who are not feeling well out of the classroom, but still engaged with their academic pursuits. Thus, faculty must make accommodations for students who are ill and cannot attend in person by recording their classes for asynchronous delivery, or by providing additional instruction, support or materials so that students absent from live classes because of illness are not disadvantaged.

Because of the way in which we started the semester, the registrar has moved the add deadline from week two to week three.

Research activities will continue and research facilities and services will remain open.

Staff working remotely should return to campus on Jan. 24 unless alternative work arrangements have been approved.

Masks continue to be incredibly important and must be worn indoors at all times in accordance with our mask policy. KN95 masks offer an increased level of protection over cloth and disposable surgical masks. Our existing stock of 15,000 KN95 masks was fully distributed last week, but we expect to receive an additional shipment later this week.

Indoor gatherings are now permitted without limitations on size. However, all gatherings of over 100 people should be coordinated with the Crisis Management Team to ensure the necessary safety protocols are in place for the event.

The previously announced restrictions for dining on campus will continue for the next one to two weeks to avoid spreading the highly infectious omicron variant while eating in proximity to others.

For students, faculty and staff returning to campus, please schedule an on-arrival test and a follow-up test three to four days later. We will have weekend testing on Jan. 22 and 23 for students returning to campus. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID, you must schedule your test through the Rice contact tracing team by filling out a health report form.

The next vaccine clinic will be conducted on campus in the student center Grand Hall on Thursday, Feb. 3. You can find the details here.

We expect to return to a more normal semester over the next couple of weeks as the current coronavirus wave recedes. As always, please be careful by wearing a mask when you’re in public and take other common sense precautions.

Reggie DesRoches, Provost

Kevin E. Kirby, Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee