Rice University Shifts to Online Classes as Covid Cases Rise

Rice University of Texas is shifting classes online for the first two weeks of the semester as Covid-19 cases increase in the Houston area and on campus.

The school also plans to push back the start of classes by two days to Aug. 25, officials said Thursday.

“I’ll be blunt: the level of breakthrough cases (positive tests among vaccinated persons) is much higher than anticipated,” Bridget Gorman, Rice’s dean of undergraduates, said in a letter to students. While Covid illnesses will be milder among those who are vaccinated, “it has become clear that as a campus community we need to take steps to further assess and recalibrate how we will manage this illness at Rice this year.”

Reginald DesRoches, Rice’s provost, said there has been a “substantial increase in the number of cases within our Rice community, which is predominantly vaccinated.”

With the delta variant spreading just as students start returning to campus, schools are being confronted with a third academic year of disruption tied to the pandemic. The University of Texas at San Antonio said last week it would move to mostly online learning for the first three weeks of the semester.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week as deaths in the state from the virus have more than doubled in the last two weeks. Abbott has issued an executive order against mask mandates.