Rice University cancels classes for a week amidst growing coronavirus fears

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the wake of growing coronavirus fears, Rice University has made the decision to cancel classes for the week of March 9-13.

Rice says this decision comes out of an abundance of caution and to "allow faculty and staff time to prepare for possible remote instruction this semester."

The university says faculty can provide students material that can be completed remotely and does not require group interaction to work on during the week off.

During this week off, Rice says they are preparing for the possibility of delivering the majority of classes remotely, if it proves necessary.

The university also made the decision to prohibit all on-campus public events, gatherings and parties with more than 100 people through April 30 to"minimize close contact among large groups of people recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The university released the following statement:
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 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 hand washing 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 emailhelpdesk@rice.edu.


The announcement comes three days after it was released that a Rice employee is one of 11 coronavirus cases in the Houston-area.

Map of COVID-19 cases across the US, updated as confirmed by CDC


Rice University said Friday that they had taken precautions on campus, including thorough cleaning and sanitizing of Keck Hall, the only building on campus the patient visited.

The employee was one of 17 people who recently traveled on a Nile River cruise in Egypt. So far, all Houston-area COVID-19 cases have been linked to the cruise.

Rice also banned all university-sponsored international travel for faculty, staff, postdocs and students through April 30.

In a statement, they said, "We recognize that in a limited number of cases, the impact of this temporary decision could have significant professional consequences."

In that case, officials recommend any affected individuals make an appeal to the provost's office.

The employee who tested positive was on campus Feb. 24-25 and was in a secured suite on the first floor of Keck Hall. Officials say he wore a face mask during his time on campus and didn't visit any other classrooms or buildings.

Officials confirmed the Rice employee is a man between the ages of 60-70 years old who has a history of international travel.

The man is said to be experiencing some symptoms and has self-quarantined at home.

His lab work has been sent to the CDC in Atlanta for testing.

The video above is form previous reporting.

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