HOUSTON – Rice University announced on Friday that it would begin its spring semester online and would remain remote through mid-February in an attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus amid an increase in cases reported over winter break.
Approximately one quarter of all the positive coronavirus cases the university has reported since it began testing on campus in August 2020 were recorded in the last two weeks alone.
“All of the infections were traced to off-campus activities over the winter recess,” Rice University’s president David Leebron wrote in a statement addressed to the Rice community.
Leebron wrote that Rice officials have applied to the state to receive enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate every student, faculty, and staff member.
“We do not yet have official word on when we will receive the vaccines, but we are hopeful they will arrive sometime in February” Leebron wrote in a statement to the Rice community.
In the interim, students will begin online coursework Jan. 25. and are expected to remain remote through mid February.
In addition to moving classes online, Rice University will bar most undergraduate students from returning to campus before Feb. 15, with exceptions for students who are already on campus or those who seek an exception from the Dean of Undergraduates based on their situation and needs.
Due to the changes, Leebron wrote that the university will adjust room and board charges and financial aid packages for students who had planned to live on campus.
Graduate students are urged to complete their work remotely to the extent possible. Those who are pursuing research degrees are permitted on campus consistent with a Research Stage 2 level of activity.
Only essential staff should return to campus before Feb. 8, Leebron wrote.
Additionally, there is also a limit on gatherings indoors. No group activities involving more than five people will be permitted indoors. Outdoor gatherings up to ten people are permitted if all involved are wearing masks and are practicing social distancing.
“Thank you once more to our dedicated faculty and staff whose remarkable work over the past ten months has enabled us to continue accomplishing our mission in these difficult circumstances,” Leebron wrote. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but still some distance to travel together before putting this time behind us.”