2/5: COVID-19 Early Spring Update

February 5, 2021

USC Students, Faculty and University Staff:

Recently, new case rates for COVID-19 and hospitalizations have continued to trend downward, after hitting a post-holidays peak. As we write this, the availability of ICU (intensive care unit) beds has increased to 13% capacity. The number of positive cases among students and employees also is decreasing, after peaking during the week of 1/17 – 1/23.

We thank our community for staying at home, limiting travel, avoiding gathering and dining with others, taking the precautions of wearing face coverings, hand hygiene, and maintaining 6 ft. physical distancing. Your vigilance and sacrifice have helped curb the spread, and we are deeply appreciative of your commitment to keeping everyone safe.

As we enter this more hopeful spring, we have several key factors that will help with safer re-openings (as they are made permissible by the state of California and the LA County Dept. of Public Health). These factors include regular Pop Testing, contact tracing, and the ongoing vaccination efforts.

Thank you to all who have participated in Pop Testing and Trojan Check. We have performed over 36,000 tests during the month of January. Our COVID-19 population screening program has identified several positive cases of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, and close contacts have been quickly isolated and quarantined to prevent further spread. Some members of our community have received notifications of positive cases in campus locations, as community spread is common in Los Angeles, and additional cases and notifications can be expected. We continue to refine the workflow and process for testing, and have created a troubleshooting guide for users. We appreciate the feedback to improve this program that has been submitted to the COVID hotline.

As vaccination rollout in Los Angeles expanded from 1A (health care workforce) to 1B (individuals over the age of 65), more than 18,000 vaccines were rolled out through Keck Medicine of USC.

For campus vaccinations, as of Feb. 2, USC Student Health administered 3,043vaccines over the course of 3 weeks to eligible 1A (healthcare workers, including faculty, staff and students) and 1B first tier (ages 65 and older, including faculty, staff and students). When the current vaccine shortage is resolved and more supply is made available, we will provide updated information about vaccinations to the next groups in phases 1B, 1C and 2 .

As a large population in Los Angeles are post-COVID-19 (have previously been positive), and more will be post-vaccine, there are some misperceptions; the following information can continue to help keep us all safe:

  • People who have recovered from COVID-19 may experience re-infection, as the length of immunity is uncertain. The variants that have emerged from mutations of the coronavirus also contribute to concerns about transmission. Gatherings with recovered COVID-19 individuals still pose risk of re-infection and spread in the community and are not permitted.
  • People who have received the vaccine may still be able to transmit the illness to others who are not yet vaccinated, even without experiencing any illness themselves.
  • Vaccinated individuals should continue with strong precautions even after completing vaccination. Precautions will also keep others around you safe from potential transmission.
  • Asymptomatic spread is possible and not uncommon. People can have no symptoms, have an active infectious illness, and transmit the illness to others.

All this information points to the need to continue with our safest behaviors right now.

We strongly urge our community to avoid hosting or attending in-person Super Bowl or basketball watch parties this weekend; and continue with safe distancing and wear face coverings when around others.

We thank everyone for the sacrifices you have made and the resilience you have shown. It has taken incredible strength and commitment to our community to keep working, studying, preparing, supporting each other, and staying centered. Our community has continued to be Trojan strong throughout these long months; and if you need help staying balanced and moving forward, the Counseling and Mental Health Services professionals are here for our students, and the Center for Work and Family Life is available to all employees.

As conditions improve, your thoughtful decisions can save the lives of those we love, and honor the lives that have been lost to COVID-19. You are doing amazingly well during these difficult times.

Stay well and stay safe.

Sarah Van Orman, MD, MMM, FACHA

Chief Health Officer for USC Student Health
Division Chief for College Health, Keck School of Medicine of USC