Rice University, where more than 95 percent of students are vaccinated, announced a move to distance learning last week after testing revealed an alarmingly high number of community members with breakthrough Covid infections.
Those results, the university now says, were seriously biased by a test error.
Of the 4,500 tests conducted on the Rice campus, 81 had positive results, mostly in vaccinated members of the Rice community. Even in Houston, where the Delta variant was on the rise, the results were a surprise. Rice had made strenuous efforts to control the coronavirus in his community, practically demanding that students, faculty and staff be vaccinated, even as the state of Texas banned vaccination mandates. The university also needed face masks.
Further investigation revealed that most people who appeared to have tested positive were in fact negative for Covid, the university now says.
When Rice began investigating the cases, it found the results were wrong, according to a note to the university community on Sunday from Kevin E. Kirby, vice president of administration at Rice. Most people who tested positive had no symptoms. And the cases were scattered, without clusters.
Rice found that the test provider that reported so many positive results had just switched to using a new test. When 50 of the people who tested positive were retested with different types of tests, all but one of the results were negative.
Still, Rice says it plans to stick to its decision to move to distance learning until September 3. According to a university Covid dashboard, Rice now considers just 27 of the 4,500 tests administered on campus since Aug. 13. real positive results, not 81.