RICE ALERT – Classes canceled for the week of March 9

Coronavirus

Sunday, March 8, 2020 - 5:20pm

To the Rice community:

As the world grapples with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and the university has managed its own case of the virus in an employee who contracted it during international travel, the Crisis Management Team's decisions are guided by the following priorities:

  1. Protecting the health and safety of the Rice community while maintaining the ability to conduct our teaching and research mission.
  2. Basing decisions on guidance and information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health.
  3. Providing information and opportunity to allow people to make the best choices for their individual circumstances consistent with the university's needs.

Based on these priorities and the evolving situation in Houston and nationally, the university has decided to take additional precautionary measures over the next several weeks.

Classes: Out of an abundance of caution and to allow faculty and staff time to prepare for possible remote instruction this semester, in-person classroom instruction and undergrad teaching labs for the week of March 9 are canceled. During the week of March 9-13, faculty can provide material that can be completed remotely and does not require group interaction.

Like some of our peers, Rice is preparing for the possibility of delivering the majority of its classes remotely if that should prove necessary. The Crisis Management Team in collaboration with the Faculty Senate has formed a working group. We already have several tools that faculty and students regularly use that enable online instruction such as Zoom and Canvas. The working group is in the process of identifying additional resources that may be needed in the short term. To help with this process, we ask all instructors teaching this semester to please complete a needs assessment survey forthcoming in the next few days.

Research: Research will continue, as it is generally limited to small groups. Postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate researchers should consult with their advisors about how to best pursue their scholarship during this period. Precautionary health and hygiene measures must be followed.

Events: Through April 30, we are prohibiting all on-campus public events, gatherings and parties with more than 100 people to minimize close contact among large groups of people as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes canceling the president's town hall and Beer Bike events. All attendees at events with 100 people or less must be provided with information about practicing proper handwashing as suggested by the CDC (for example, regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering coughs and staying home if sick).

Outdoor varsity, intramural and club athletic events may continue as scheduled.

Campus operations: Other aspects of the campus will continue in operation. The university is following the CDC's recommendations for higher education institutions and the workplace. Faculty and supervisors should allow special accommodations for employees who are older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions, are immune system compromised or are sick. In these cases, employees should consult with their supervisors and Human Resources to determine leave options or other accommodations available to them.

Travel

The university's travel policy remains unchanged and is listed below.

International travel: Rice has banned all university-sponsored international travel for faculty, staff, postdocs and students through April 30. We recognize that in a limited number of cases, the impact of this temporary decision could have significant professional consequences. If that is the case, an appeal may be made to the provost's office at provost@rice.edu.

Anyone arriving from countries on the CDC's level 2 and 3 warning lists must self-isolate and stay away from campus and student housing and have no physical contact with the Rice community for two weeks after returning to the U.S. This includes any students, faculty or staff traveling for personal reasons; all visitors; arriving new students, and arriving new employees.

Domestic travel: While domestic travel is not prohibited, employees should limit university-sponsored travel to only essential business purposes, and they should discuss such travel with their supervisors. If you do travel, avoid attending larger public gatherings and follow precautionary measures as listed below.

Travel registration: We are requiring everyone in the Rice community who travels internationally for any reason to register their travel at this website: https://travelregistry.rice.edu. You will need to log in with your NetID. If you have questions, please contact the help desk at 713-348-HELP (4357) or email helpdesk@rice.edu.

Please follow the precautionary measures from the CDC:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

For information about handwashing, see the CDC’s Handwashing website.

See https://emergency.rice.edu/coronavirus for all updates and related information. The Rice Community Information Center will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The phone number is 713-348-4224.

In the meantime, you can find information about the coronavirus at these websites

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nco

https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus