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Stay up to date: Novel coronavirus COVID-19

Photo by Tina Liu | The Rice Thresher
Facts taken from the Center for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts.html

Useful links: Alerts from Rice University, updates from the Center for Disease Control, updates from the World Health Organization and updates from the Texas Department of Health. 

This article was last updated on April 5 at 6:16 p.m.

April 5 Rice will offer temporary housing in Wiess and Hanszen Colleges for medical personnel who work in nearby Texas Medical Center hospitals. Those currently living in those colleges will be relocated.

April 3 Rice cancels all undergraduate international programs scheduled before the first day of classes of the fall semester. The canceled programs include summer study abroad programs, Center for Civic Leadership fellowships, faculty-led programs as well as third-party provider study abroad programs.

April 1 Due to the expected financial strain of the pandemic, Rice implements a staff hiring freeze effective immediately, according to an email sent to division leads and administrators. The email obtained by the Thresher also said that there will be no pay raises for staff for fiscal year 2021.

March 30 An on-campus commencement ceremony is postponed until further notice, according to an email sent by President Leebron, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman and Interim Provost Seiichi Matsuda. An online ceremony will take place on May 16, where graduates’ names will be read out loud.

March 25 Faculty Senate decides that all undergraduate courses taken this semester can be designated as pass/fail and still count for major, minor and certificate requirements. The deadline to designate a course as pass/fail or to drop a course has been moved to the last day of classes.

March 16 Students will receive up to $2,722 in refunds for room and board, as a credit “for the prorated amount of their families’ contribution to the fee for room and board charges for the 45 days remaining in the spring term as of March 23.” Students with parking permits who have moved their cars will receive refund for the rest of the semester, and all students will receive $20 in refund from the Recreation Center. Students who rely on work-study who have left campus will receive a lump sum “based on an estimate of what the student would have earned through the rest of the semester up to the maximum stated in the financial aid package.”

  • Campus goes dry indefinitely, including students who are over 21. 

March 15 Commencement will still happen, although it may be rescheduled, according to an email from President Leebron. The email also states that students will receive refunds for room and board and other fees, and that employee compensation will not be reduced due to lower activity from COVID-19.

March 14 Students get updates from their magisters and executive teams about move-out process — students already at home were encouraged to stay home and leave their items in their rooms to be sorted at a later date. Non-seniors on campus were given free PODS access to store their items; seniors were allowed to store some items in public spaces but not given PODS access. 

March 13 Crisis Management adjusts its rules for self-quarantine — previously, travelers to CDC’s Level 2 countries needed to self-quarantine for 14 days, but the CDC changed Level 2 to traveling anywhere. As a result, visitors to Level 2 no longer need to self-quarantine.

  • Seniors organize a mock ‘commencement,‘ with all colleges attending. Wiess and Hanszen host separate graduation ceremonies in addition to the mock event. Students also run one last Baker 13. 

March 12 Rice will move "fully into remote synchronous mode" starting March 23 for the rest of the semester, according to an email sent by the Provost to faculty. Rice students will not be allowed to live on campus starting March 25, with the exception of some international students, students with no access to internet or in a precarious living situation. They must request an exemption here

  • At the time, graduate research was still ongoing, according to an email sent by Crisis Management. The email also clarified that Rice as a campus is still open. 
  • Gatherings now limited to 25 people.

March 12 NCAA cancels all spring and winter NCAA championships, which includes Track & Field (Michelle Fokam and Grace Forbes were scheduled to compete). C-USA competitions, including women’s and men’s basketball, are also suspended

March 11 Houston declares a state of emergency for the next seven days. The remaining Houston Livestock & Rodeo shows are canceled. The World Health Organization declares the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. There are now three confirmed and 11 presumptive cases in Houston and over 1,000 cases in the United States. 

  • 2:03 p.m. Leebron sends the campus an email thanking faculty, staff and students and stating that Rice is currently intending to “continue the semester after spring break with at least smaller classes able to function as before,“ but that it is a “rapidly evolving situation.” Nationwide, multiple schools have canceled classes or asked students not to return to campus following spring break, although Texas schools have mostly not taken such measures. 

March 10 The faculty, staff and students who self-quarantined after exposure to the positive case have completed their quarantine without symptoms, according to administration. “That makes the likelihood that the virus was transmitted to others on our campus by that employee extremely small,“ President David Leebron said

March 10 The Thresher runs five articles on the ongoing situation: 

March 9 The SA tables Resolution #15, which included suggestions to the administration about attendance and online classes. Currently, there are 12 confirmed cases in Harris County, including the affected Rice staffer, all from the same cruise in Egypt. 

March 9 Events continue to be canceled or adjusted:

  • Owl Days, Rice’s largest prospective student event, has been canceled
  • All student-run businesses — Coffeehouse, Rice Bikes and the Hoot will be closed for the rest of the week.
  • Rice Memorial Center, Fondren Library and the Rice Rec Center all reduce their hours for the rest of the week. 

March 8, 5:25 p.m. Classes and undergraduate teaching labs are cancelled for the week of March 9 "out of an abundance of caution and to allow faculty and staff time to prepare for possible remote instruction this semester," according to an email sent by Crisis Management.

Beer Bike is also canceled, along with all other gatherings and parties with more than 100 people, which includes Rice Program Council’s Rondelet and Brown College’s Bacchanalia. Research and athletic events will continue, along with all other campus operations.

Coffeehouse announced that it will also be closed until the end of spring break.

March 8 Student Association President Anna Margaret Clyburn calls for student volunteers to staff the Rice Community Information Center, which will be answering calls from community members about Coronavirus.  The hotline will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The phone number is 713-348-4224.

March 7 Crisis Management reports that the Rice employee who has tested positive for coronavirus spent time in a secured suite on the first floor of Keck Hall when they were on campus from Feb. 24-25. All classes in Keck will be moved to other buildings at least through March 11. Crisis Management said that the affected employee's contact was limited to Keck Hall and they did not enter any classrooms or other buildings on campus and did not ride the shuttles. Rice also issued a complete ban on all university-sponsored international travel for faculty, staff, postdocs and students through April 30. Some Alternative Spring Break trips to California were canceled by the CCL, citing the state of emergency in California. The Rice Community Information Center is launched and will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The phone number is 713-348-4224.

  • March 9: According to FE&P, the custodial staff wore “rubber gloves” when sanitizing Keck Hall and surrounding classrooms.

March 6 Student Association presidents Grace Wickerson and Anna Margaret Clyburn release a joint statement with Graduate Student Association president Hannah Pearce regarding efforts to handle COVID-19 on campus. Their planned initiatives include “a virtual town hall with Jerusha Kasch, head of Rice University Crisis Management, broadcasted in all college commons and on SA and GSA social media (submit your questions to this form)“ and “utilizing policy recommendations from this SA Resolution to support administrative plans to make academic accommodations as the COVID-19 situation evolves.”

March 5 ABC-13 reports that the Rice employee, as well as the other positive case in Harris County, had traveled to Egypt prior to returning to campus. 

March 5 5:15 p.m. A previously-mentioned Rice employee has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Harris County Public Health. The employee had previously made contact with 17 doctoral students, faculty and staff. All remain in self-quarantine. The 17 in self-quarantine have not reported any symptoms. Information sent via Rice Alert. The email states that Rice will not suspend campus operations or classes at the time. It also states that the employee made contact with one building on campus (unspecified) and that building has been "extensively and continuously sanitized." 

March 5 First two verified cases of COVID-19 in Houston are reported in Harris County, the county where Rice resides, according to a news release from Harris County Public Health. The patients are a man and woman who contracted the disease during travel. One of these cases was later discovered to be a Rice employee (see above). No community spread has been reported yet. 

March 4 A “presumptuous” positive case is reported in neighboring Fort Bend County, meaning that the patient has not been tested but shows signs of infection. 

March 4 The Thresher reports that domestic spring break trips — including Alternative Spring Breaks — as well as domestic and international summer programs are not currently subject to the suspension on international travel. Students already abroad have been asked to stay in their respective countries. Some students have been affected regardless of Rice policy — for example, a student seeking to pursue a Fulbright fellowship in Wuhan, said her program has been suspended indefinitely. Kevin Kirby is also quoted discussing longer-term plans for the summer and next semester. Kirby mentions that graduation is an upcoming concern.

March 3 11:11 a.m.

  • Rice suspends all university-sponsored international spring break trips as well as “any other [international] official student travel” based on new CDC guidelines. Class trips to Cuba, for example, are now suspended until further notice. A second clarifying alert stated that only university-sponsored international travel, not domestic, has been suspended.
  • The email also states that the research staffer who had made contact with a possible COVID-19 case has been tested by Harris County public health authorities, and test results are expected by the end of the week.

March 2 The Student Association introduces Resolution #15, which calls for Rice to implement student accommodation policies in the case of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Recommendations model University of Virginia’s policy, which directs faculty to provide services to self-isolating students returning from abroad, including providing class notes and leniency on attendance and late policy. 

Feb. 29 10:54 p.m. 

  • After a research staffer’s contact with a possible positive COVID-19 case overseas, Crisis Management asks 17 Rice employees and students to self-quarantine. The email states that classes, campus operations and events will continue as planned. 
  • A March 1 update from Rice said that the research staffer returned on Feb. 20 and came to campus on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 but did not enter any residential colleges or classrooms. The 17 individuals self-quaranting are faculty, doctoral students and staff, according to the update. 

Feb. 28 5:24 a.m. 

  • Rice extends its suspension on university sponsored travel to Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea, countries on the Center for Disease Control’s level 2 and 3 travel warnings. 
  • The email also states that “any student, faculty or staff member who travels for personal reasons to any country on the CDC’s level 2 and level 3 warning list is expected to self-isolate and stay away from campus for two weeks after returning to the U.S.” 
  • Rice begins requiring everyone in the Rice community who plans to travel outside of the U.S. to report their travels. Enforceability of this requirement is not mentioned. 

Feb. 18 The Thresher reports on reactions to COVID-19 among the Chinese international student population at Rice. Members of Rice Chinese Students and Scholars Association fundraised for medical supplies, which were delivered by air to Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital. 

Feb. 5 The Thresher reports that six members of the Rice community are self-quaranting, none of which are students, according to Vice President of Administration Kevin Kirby. Kirby also said that the university received a small number of reports about xenophobic behavior. Students mention that Rice will not sponsor study abroad travel to China.

Feb. 3 5:02 p.m. Rice Alert sends a self-report survey for anyone who has recently traveled. The email also says that faculty, staff and students who have “traveled to China or had close contact with someone known to have the coronavirus and ... have symptoms of a respiratory illness” should seek medical care.  

Jan. 29 5:03 p.m. Rice suspends all university sponsored travel to China by faculty, students and staff and says individual travelers should avoid all non-essential travel to China. 

Jan. 27 5:47 p.m. Rice Alert sends an update with information from the Center for Disease Control, which considers the virus to be “a very serious public threat” but the immediate health risk to the general American public “is considered low at this time.”

Jan 24 4:59 p.m. Rice Alert sends a campus-wide alert about the second confirmed COVID-19 case in Illinois, stating that the previously mentioned possible case was in College Station, Texas (this case later tested negative).

Jan. 23 8:01 p.m. Rice Alert sends a campus-wide alert about the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Washington and a possible case in Texas (this case later tested negative).