Dear undergraduate students,
I hope that you all have had a wonderful summer and you are excited about the start of classes and arrival to Rice. The Crisis Management Advisory Committee met earlier this week, and earlier today sent a message to our community (if you missed it, you can read it here). While I am pleased to see us much closer to “normal” operations for activities and residential life on our campus, I am writing today to clarify and share some additional details about your arrival to campus and expectations as it relates to COVID and health practices more generally in the time ahead.
While wastewater surveillance data for the City of Houston shows we have passed the peak on viral load and positivity rates in the areas surrounding campus, most of you will be traveling back to campus at the same time, and we are asking each of you to monitor your health and take steps to stay healthy in the time ahead.
Everyone should test for COVID immediately prior to traveling to Rice. Those living in the US can order free tests; please read instructions for eligibility and delivery timeline. If you are symptomatic and/or test positive, we urge you to delay your travel to help protect our community. While traveling and in crowded spaces, we encourage you to wear a mask - and remember, cloth masks do not offer the same level of protection as N95, KN95, and KN94 masks.
On Campus Student Return
In addition to room keys, students moving into a residential college will be given a KN95 mask and an antigen rapid test kit containing two tests during college check-in on move-in day. Please test on arrival in your room, and after receiving a negative test result you are free to move around campus. The second test should be taken five days following the initial test to account for any travel-related exposure (or sooner if symptoms occur).
If you receive a positive test result, please follow CDC guidance and isolate yourself in your own room for the recommended period of time. Isolating students should wear a mask and distance as much as possible from roommates/suitemates. During this time you may only leave your room to get food from your nearest servery or use the bathroom while wearing your KN95 mask. In part due to the faster spread of the current variants increasing the risk of quick exposure as well as limitations on available on-campus housing, most students who test positive will isolate in place. This means that it is likely that neither students who test positive nor their roommates will be moved to isolate in a different room.
For those students who have underlying medical conditions that place them at higher risk of developing severe outcomes of COVID-19, we have reserved a small quantity of temporary rooms to be used if their roommate(s) test positive - to be coordinated with Student Health Services.
Off Campus Student Return
If you are traveling back to Houston, you should plan to test prior to interacting with the broader campus population, and again five days following your initial test (to account for any travel-related exposure). There are various ways to obtain a test. You can order tests to arrive at your residence prior to classes starting (if you haven’t ordered these already, check delivery timing and please order ASAP). Tests are also available through your residential college coordinator’s office.
If you receive a negative test result, you are free to come to campus. If you receive a positive test result, you should follow CDC guidance and isolate off-campus room for the recommended period of time prior to coming to campus.
While we are providing testing kits and KN95 masks for the return, we are planning to begin the semester in a very normal posture with events and dining procedures following pre-COVID rules and expectations. This includes large event planning in the residential colleges. Also keep in mind, as the CMAC emailstated, professors will be able to ask their classes to mask at their discretion, so you should always have a mask with you. We are also recommending that you consider wearing a mask in large group indoor settings and when requested by event hosts. As is always the case, we emphasize our culture of care, so it is good practice to think of others and consider their wellbeing when scheduling, hosting and attending events.
Additionally, please remember that influenza vaccines are expected of all students for the 2022-23 school year. Later this fall all students will be required to complete an influenza shot attestation (of their vaccination or their waiver) through Student Health. Note that the vaccine will be available at most pharmacies, but we will also be scheduling on-campus Influenza vaccine clinics starting in early September. More information will be sent to all students after classes begin.
Let me end by saying that COVID looks to remain with us for some time, and given the relative effectiveness of vaccines our goal is to increasingly treat this as endemic and find ways to operate as normally as possible. I am excited to see you all return to campus, and enjoy what I hope will be an engaging experience this fall both inside and outside the classroom.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates