7/16: COVID-19 Health Advisory

To: USC Community

From: Sarah Van Orman, Chief Health Officer for USC Student Health
Division Chief of College Health, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Date: July 16, 2020

Subject: COVID-19 Health Advisory

The public health conditions around COVID-19 in Los Angeles are becoming increasingly concerning with rapid increases in the number of infections. California has entered a record-breaking stage of new cases. There is a serious concern in the health care sector of overwhelming capacity in urgent care, emergency departments, and other critical health care environments. 

As we have seen in New York City, a shortage of intensive care unit and emergency department beds will have a cascading effect in the entire health care system in our region. This affects every single person’s ability to receive life-saving care. Rollbacks in openings have been enacted by the state in order to stem this tide; community adherence can help bring us back to the much lower infection rate that we were experiencing in early May.

In the summer, our on-premise and near-premise campus population is much smaller than during the fall and spring semesters. However, we are seeing some worrisome trends emerge from this smaller population that our community should take into consideration.

Over the last two weeks, the test positivity rate increased from 5% to 9% among students.  Most of these cases are attributed to congregate living environments in private residences and group gatherings, especially over the Fourth of July weekend.

Our current testing numbers (July 5 – July 12):  at USC Student Health (excluding other patients of Keck Medicine of USC) are as follows:

  • Students — Positive: 27 / Negative: 277 / Pending: 0
  • Percent positive: 8.9%
  • Employees — Positive: 1 / Negative: 54 / Pending: 1
  • Percent positive: 1.8%

The students who have had exposures have been contacted, isolated and provided instructions and care. Adherence to the medical team’s instructions, including providing contact information and avoiding all contact with others, is crucial in preventing further spread of illness. 

We are at a critical juncture where our individual and collective actions can change the course of our future state. Consider the following:

  • There has been no workplace transmission related to environmental configuration. Face covering adherence, physical distancing by 6 ft., handwashing/sanitizing, and cleaning of common surfaces have been effective measures in prevention. 
  • Employees have experienced exposure almost exclusively due to “drifting” into the 6 ft. range during meal breaks. Eating and drinking with others remains a high-risk activity due to removal of face coverings, especially when within close proximity and indoors.
  • There have been no transmissions among students living in residence halls. Takeout dining, physical distancing, handwashing/sanitizing and cleaning of common surfaces have been effective measures in prevention.
  • Recent student exposure and illness has been traced back to group gatherings; prior cases involved community spread, and travel as sources of illness. Travel also remains a higher risk activity for transmission; students are advised to avoid travel during the academic semester.

We are counting on our community to personally reduce risks, take the necessary precautions, eliminate group gatherings, and work with our health care providers, public health officials, contact tracing team, safety ambassadors, and other campus partners to keep our community safe. A reminder that all students, employees, and visitors are required to complete a daily symptom check prior to entering facilities on our campuses. The daily symptom self-assessment is Trojan Check

All individuals should stay home if you are sick or exposed to someone with COVID-19. An employee or student who tests positive for COVID-19 should notify USC through the hotline number, 213-740-6291or by email to covid19@usc.edu. Contact USC Student Health for testing by calling 213-740-9355 (WELL).

Stay safe and stay well.