November 16, 2020
Dear undergraduate students,
I am writing today to follow up on my previous letter to discuss procedures for the start of the spring semester at Rice. Please read it carefully, as it describes in detail requirements for testing on arrival as well as move-in procedures for those who will live on campus.
SARS-CoV-2 Testing Procedures During Winter Recess and Spring 2021 Semester
As we have done throughout the semester, our PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 will continue uninterrupted through winter recess and the Spring 2021 semester. The testing locations will remain the same, again administered using nasal swabs by two vendors (Baylor Genetics and Methodist Hospital). Our access to high-quality testing and fast turnaround times is a critical element of our overall strategy for proving a safe environment.
A team at Rice has developed the LAMP test, a new SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid-based detection assay that uses saliva. This is an exciting development, since providing a saliva sample is much simpler than collecting a nasopharyngeal swab sample. Recent research has demonstrated strong evidence in support for using saliva in COVID-19 screening as saliva and nasopharyngeal swabs offer comparable sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2, including among people who are asymptomatic. That said, one key distinction to remember is that, currently, LAMP testing remains under research protocols at Rice. Like our PCR-based testing, a positive LAMP result requires the Crisis Management Team to take appropriate precautions. A positive result by the LAMP test requires isolating the person until a follow-up and confirmatory diagnostic PCR test result is received, usually the next day. Going forward, the university will continue to rely on PCR testing while we also support the increased availability of LAMP testing. Our hope is that by early next semester, we will run 300-400 LAMP tests per day, five days per week.
For all students who are not designated as “remote group 2, no contact” (see this message for a description), we again will require testing on arrival when you return to start the spring semester at Rice. Our procedures for on-campus students will differ from the process in August move-in. All on-campus students will be able to take either a PCR or LAMP test (with isolation and PCR follow-up if the LAMP test is positive).
In addition to your return to campus test, all students are required to schedule an additional follow-up PCR test a few days after the initial test, as it can take a few days after exposure for the virus to be detectable by testing. The university is requiring this lagged re-test of all students after their first “on arrival” test. We will be in touch about signing up for this lagged test in January.
It is important to note that all non-remote undergraduate students will be required to engage in weekly testing for SARS-CoV-2 throughout the spring semester.
For all students, regardless of the location of residence, we advise strongly that you take precautions throughout the winter recess to protect yourself and others in order to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Similar to the advice we gave this past summer, please take steps to travel safely -- and secure a coronavirus test a few days prior to traveling back to Rice if at all possible. Prior to signing up for your arrival testing appointment, you should discuss your travel and arrival plans with any roommates/suitemates/housemates that you might have. Due to quarantine requirements, following your initial test (described below), the more you are able to sync your arrival with those you live with, the simpler the process will be for everyone.
Testing on Arrival Procedures for Students Living Off-Campus
For undergraduate students who live off-campus but come to campus and/or interact with members of the Rice community off-campus, we will follow the same testing-on-arrival protocol and procedures as we did in August. Specifically, off-campus students may sign up for PCR testing on the Thursday or Friday prior to the start of classes (January 21 and 22) or during the first two days of spring classes (January 25 or 26). Testing will be available between the hours of 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. Off-campus students may not come to campus prior to this “on arrival” testing appointment, and must then return home until they receive a negative test result. As described above, all off-campus students will schedule and complete a second, follow-up test three to four days after the “on arrival” test.
Arrival PCR testing sign up for off-campus students, for the days listed above, will be released at 9:00 am on Friday, November 20. Testing sign up for the lagged follow up test will be released in mid-January.
Testing on Arrival and Move-In Procedures for Students Living On-Campus
Move-in for those living on campus during the spring semester will begin on Tuesday, January 19. This process will be staggered and coordinated with testing-on-arrival procedures. Specifically, students who live on campus should schedule their “on arrival” test (either PCR or LAMP) to coincide with their arrival and move-in at Rice. Testing appointments will be available between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm between Tuesday, January 19, and Sunday, January 24. Immediately after your test is finished, you will be required to return to your room until you receive your test result (typically within 12 to 24 hours). Once you receive a negative test result, you will be free to resume normal activities on and off-campus. All on-campus students must also schedule and complete a second, follow-up test three to four days after the “on arrival” test.
Arrival PCR or LAMP testing sign up for on-campus students, for the days listed above, will be released at 9:00 am, CT on Friday, November 20. Testing sign up for the lagged follow up test will be released in mid-January.
If you have any questions about the information discussed in this message, please contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates