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Tuesday, September 28, 2021 — Houston, TX °

Rice lifts indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals


By Prayag Gordy     5/18/21 12:09am

Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask indoors on Rice campus, Kevin Kirby, chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee, wrote in an email to the Rice community Monday afternoon. This announcement comes three weeks after Rice removed the outdoor mask requirement.

Individuals who have not yet been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as two weeks after the final dose — will still need to wear a mask indoors, according to the email.

According to Kirby, the new Rice rules conform with the CDC's recently updated guidelines, which say that fully vaccinated people can resume most normal pre-pandemic activities without masks and social distancing.

“These guidelines are consistent with the most recent CDC guidance on what fully vaccinated people can do,” Kirby wrote.

Texas ended the statewide mask mandate on March 10. Public transportation and some businesses still require masks.

Morike Ayodeji, a McMurtry College sophomore who will be on campus over the summer, said she thinks these changes will lead Rice into a more normal fall semester.

“I think this new mandate will bring Rice closer to normalcy this summer, which will help with transitioning into a regular semester in the fall,” Ayodeji said. “I’m really curious to see how life unmasked at Rice this summer will be like. It will definitely take some getting used to at first.”

Rice has not yet announced if students and employees will need to be fully vaccinated to return to campus in the fall, a requirement many peer institutions will impose.

Experts estimate that at least 70 percent of the population should be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from infection to reach herd immunity, at which point the spread of COVID-19 will be slow enough that even unvaccinated people will be indirectly protected. According to Kirby, approximately 80 percent of the Rice community has said they have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

“Under current Texas regulations, we must rely on voluntary disclosures to determine vaccination levels, so 80% is a conservative estimate and that’s very good news,” Kirby wrote. “While we need to do even better, this high vaccination rate allows us to continue relaxing some of the COVID-19 [policies] that have been in place for a long time.”

Kirby also announced the reopening of Valhalla, the graduate student pub, which will resume operations later this month, with more details to come.

Additionally, Rice has closed one of the two remaining COVID-19 testing sites, following the closure of the Abercrombie site on April 30.

“Testing in the East Gym has ceased,” Kirby said. “Only the LAMP test, administered in a new location in Space Science Rm. 106, is available on campus.”

Following a presumptive positive LAMP test, students should call the Rice Student Health Services Office and employees should contact a medical provider, according to Kirby. Students and employees who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should similarly contact Student Health or a medical provider.

Kirby added that some countries or airlines may not allow the LAMP test to satisfy their testing requirements, but numerous sites in Houston still offer free COVID-19 testing.

Only members of the Rice community who have not indicated they have been fully vaccinated are still required to test weekly if they regularly come to campus, and they must continue to wear masks.

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