Shortly after announcing it was moving to online learning due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, Rice University in Texas learned that there was an issue with the COVID-19 tests the school was using.

Despite discovering that dozens of the individuals who previously tested positive for COVID-19 are actually negative for the virus, the school has decided to stick with its decision to move to online instruction for at least the first two weeks of the semester.

In a letter to the Rice Community, Kevin Kirby, chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee and vice president for administration, said the school discovered some anomalies with test results from one of its three providers. Dozens of individuals who initially tested positive were retested and all but one of those individuals turned out to be negative.

“These testing data anomalies were part of the reason we decided to take most of our classes online for the first two weeks, until Sept. 3, as a precautionary measure,” Kirby wrote in his letter. “We’ll largely leave those plans in place, because many of our students and faculty have already made their own plans in accordance with that schedule. We will use this time to assess any other possible measures that we might put in place. We’re going to make some operational adjustments that will be announced shortly, but right now we anticipate returning to fully in-person classroom instruction in two weeks.”

Despite the move to online learning, Rice said it intends to return to fully in-person instruction this semester. The school has also confirmed that 96 percent of undergrad students, 89 percent of graduate students, 89 percent of faculty, and 87 percent of staff are vaccinated.

In addition to announcing the testing anomalies, Kirby also announced that the school has relaunched its testing statistics dashboard. The dashboard shows test data beginning with the relaunch of the school’s screening program on Aug. 13.


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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs