Coronavirus alert issued at Rice University now worrying students on campus

Rice University has asked around 17 people involved with the school to self-quarantine off of campus as a precaution while they look into a possible case of COVID-19.

They say those involved are faculty, doctoral students and staff who may have had contact with the research staff member who was overseas.

“It’s something very unexpected,” said Karina Teslenko, a student. “I was just wondering what professor, what kind of group, and if it’s my professor. I don’t think so, but I hope not.”

The alert was issued late Saturday night by the school’s Crisis Management Advisory Committee out of “an abundance of caution”.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Crisis Management Advisory Committee today has asked a small group of Rice employees and students to self-quarantine because of a Rice employee's possible exposure to the coronavirus while on overseas travel (to a country not on the CDC's restricted travel list),” reads the statement. “The university is taking all necessary precautionary steps and working closely with and at the guidance of Harris County Public Health.”

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“It was definitely a shock at first,” said Paul Ryu, a student. “I [thought] eventually it was going to spread.”

On Sunday, Houston’s Health Department tweeted more details involving the self-quarantine. In addition, officials are reminding people that so far there have been no confirmed reports of the Coronavirus in Harris County.

A spokesperson from Rice confirms the staff member involved was on campus last week.

“The possible suspect case is not a Rice student, but a research staff member,” said Jeff Falk, a spokesman for Rice University. “The individual’s contact with the Rice campus was limited and occurred on February 24 and 25. Rice has identified those persons on our campus with whom there was direct contact, and all are self-isolating in locations off the main campus. Those self-isolating include research scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and doctoral-level graduate students.”

Classes are expected to continue as normal on Monday.

“I’m sure it’s just a big precaution they’re taking as they run tests and stuff, to make sure they stay in quarantine,” said Ryu. 

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