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Rice University In Texas To Begin Fall Semester Online Due To Covid Surge, Delays Start Date

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at August 20, 2021

Due to a surge in Covid cases in Texas, Houston-based Rice University has announced it will operate virtually for at least the first two weeks of classes, with an eye towards returning to in-person instruction later this semester. In addition, the university – which reported earlier that 94 percent of its undergraduate student population had been vaccinated — has pushed back its start date to August 25.

In a statement announcing the online pivot, Howard Hughes Provost Reginald DesRoches said “a substantial increase in the number of cases within our Rice community, which is predominantly vaccinated” and the need to “pay close attention to the current surge that is especially pronounced in Texas” were among the factors contributing to the decision.

“It remains our intention to return to fully in-person instruction this semester,” DesRoches said, but added in closing, “We hope everyone understands the need to adjust our COVID-19 posture in the days ahead.”

Universities across the country have been gearing up for in-person classes this fall, with hundreds of higher education institutions implementing mandatory vaccination policies as a way to ensure the safety of students and faculty. However, with the rapid spread of the highly-contagious Delta variant and so-called “breakthrough” infections occurring amongst the vaccinated, caution has emerged just as students are arriving on college campuses.

Texas has been amongst the states hit particularly hard this summer. More Texas hospitals are reporting a scarcity of ICU beds than at any other period during the pandemic, with some experts warning the health crisis could reach its most dangerous phase yet. The latest spike has propelled new cases and Covid-19 hospitalizations to increase to levels just below January peaks.

On August 11, officials at the University of Texas at San Antonio announced most classes will meet online for the first three weeks of the fall semester.

“We must temporarily adjust our approach to opening our fall semester … until we see the Delta surge begin to diminish and return to less risky levels,” President Taylor Eighmy and other officials said in a statement to the school community.

Separately, the University of Virginia dis-enrolled more than 200 students who didn’t comply with the school’s Covid-19 vaccine requirement ahead of the fall semester. The Virginian-Pilot reported that the school dis-enrolled 238 students, including 49 who were enrolled in fall courses. In the article, a university spokesman said that a number of students may not have been planning to return to the university this fall, although indicated that students and parents were given ample warning they were out of compliance.

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