FAQ: Health and Safety

Below are the answers to frequently asked questions regarding health and safety. For specific information about personal protective equipment (PPE) use and guidelines as well as other health-specific workplace requirements, please visit the USC Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 Resource Center.

For employee-specific information regarding remote work and returning to work — including the new flu immunization requirements — please visit the COVID-19 Employee Resources page on the USC Employee Gateway.

Researchers should see the Research FAQs.

If you have questions that are not answered in our FAQs, please email covid19@usc.edu. Our response team will help find an answer.

General Questions

USC Student Health is conducting population testing (“Pop. Testing”) of COVID-19 with an external company (Color). The ongoing testing is part of the university’s overall testing strategy to identify, isolate, contact trace and contain new infections. See the FAQs for additional details. Note: USC Student Health is accepting standby walk-ups for Pop Testing.

If you identify as someone who might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to age or underlying health conditions, or have family members in the “high risk” category, temporary academic or workplace accommodations will be granted to the extent feasible. Staff and faculty with concerns should contact their supervisors, department chairs, HR partners, or deans of faculty, who will work with Disability Services and Programs (DSP). Students should contact DSP directly.

Before returning to campus, every student, faculty, and staff member must complete the 'Health, Hygiene and Safety Training' module on TrojanLearn (requires flash-compatible browser), which covers topics such as proper handwashing, physical distancing, mandatory use of facial coverings, and sanitation protocols, as well as illness reporting and actions for individuals at higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

As part of the training, each person will sign an attestation committing to follow the protocols the university is putting in place. Every person who returns to campus is responsible not only for their own health, but in caring for the health and well-being of everyone around them. The training and attestation underscore the need for a commitment by all to adhere to USC’s physical distancing, hand hygiene, and facial covering requirements.

All students, faculty, and staff members returning to campus will be required to complete Trojan Check, a brief wellness assessment that must be completed each day before entering campus. Trojan Check is available online. View an overview video of Trojan Check along with step-by-step videos for how to log in, create reservations and complete your wellness assessment.

Upon completion of the assessment, the system generates a pass that will be required to access campus and select buildings.

Employees: If you are unable to complete Trojan Check online due to lack of access to a personal computing or mobile device, please contact your supervisors, department chairs, HR partners or deans of faculty.

Temperature screenings may be required for entry to certain areas, such as the Engemann building. In addition, the Trojan Check app selects individuals entering campus randomly by computer for temperature screening at perimeter access points. Temperature screenings may be instituted at other locations throughout campus.

When a student is diagnosed with COVID-19, they are contacted by a member of the dedicated USC contact tracing team through USC Student Health. We will ask detailed information about contacts and activities during the infectious period.

Contact tracing information is used for the sole purpose of protecting community health. Your activities are not shared with student conduct teams or others in the University; your name is not shared when notifying those who may have been exposed. Our concern is your health, and the health of your friends and community.

Information must be shared with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, but this information, including the name(s) of ill persons, is confidential in order to protect patient privacy.

We will provide regular online updates about rates of infection and notifications for groups who may have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19. Notifications will be targeted to individuals and groups who may need to be tested, self-isolate, or self-monitor for symptoms.

Please see additional details regarding the COVID-19 screening, symptom and exposure reporting process for onsite employees.

Please review our COVID-19 testing strategy and other established health protocols for students who plan to return to campus.

Note: Students who are returning to campus must have documentation of a COVID-19 test performed within seven days before their first day on campus. Details on uploading documentation and information about on-campus options for this initial COVID-19 test are posted on an instruction page on the USC Student Health website.

All students – whether they live on or off campus – will have accommodation arrangements made for quarantine. The medical team at USC Student Health will authorize these arrangements.

All employees – whether they are required to quarantine due to a workplace exposure or community exposure to COVID-19 – will have accommodation arrangements made for quarantine. The university will cover the expenses related to accommodation arrangements for employees required to quarantine due to a workplace exposure. Employees required to quarantine due to a community exposure (not workplace) will be billed for accommodation arrangements.

For the general public, a cloth face covering is required. For additional guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) in specialized settings, please visit the USC Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 Resource Center.

For 14 days after travel, monitor yourself closely for symptoms of COVID-19 and strictly follow USC public health guidelines. Take extra precautions and consider being tested if you have engaged in higher risk activities such as travel to an area with high levels of COVID 19, attending a large social gathering, being in crowds, or travel on a boat.

Please visit our testing data section to view the latest numbers, positivity rates and more.

Environmental Health & Safety

We are reconfiguring our facilities and spaces to reduce the risk associated with virus transmission, and the number of rooms available for all activities will be severely restricted this term. We are configuring workspaces to allow for 6 feet between individuals and will install barriers in workspaces where people must face each other or are unable to be 6 feet apart.

There are also overall limits to the total number of people in a room, set by the county. In-person meetings will be limited to 10 people per gathering and ensure 6 feet of physical distancing.

The university has implemented a robust cleaning and sanitation process in all public buildings and recreation spaces. High-touch surfaces are thoroughly cleaned three times a day. Restrooms and high-touch areas will also receive special attention. Additionally, cleaning supplies will be available for individuals to make touch-ups to their workspaces.

There are currently no verified cases of transmission of COVID-19 from droplets traveling over large distances, including through air conditioning systems.

All centrally controlled heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) building systems are run at least two hours before and after building occupancy. Systems that have the ability to run with 100 percent outside air will be run during this time to flush the buildings with filtered outside air.

We have also disabled the centrally managed demand control ventilation system to maximize the amount of outside air to each space within the buildings at all times. USC’s HVAC systems are designed to meet all required ventilation standards and building codes by allowing enough fresh outdoor air to control contaminant levels in buildings.

In line with public health guidance, many of our buildings will not be at full occupancy, and all occupants must adhere to physical distancing measures. This results in higher per person outdoor air flow rates to control contaminants, including COVID-19.

We encourage students, faculty and staff to use the stairs inside campus buildings whenever possible. Elevator occupancy should be limited in order to maintain a minimum 6-foot distance between riders, and everyone is required to wear a face mask while traveling alone or with other occupants.

Avoid touching the elevator buttons with an exposed hand/fingers, if possible, and refrain from talking. Wash hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers upon departing the elevator. Those waiting for elevators in lobbies should practice appropriate physical distancing.

Testing and Symptoms

Procedures for students, faculty, staff or other individuals on campus

  • 24/7 Hotline: Please call 213-740-6291 with questions.
  • Students: For medical appointments involving respiratory symptoms or any other health care services, please make your appointment on MySHR or call the USC Student Health line, 213-740-9355.

The following information is provided for USC students, faculty and staff.

For health care employees, including those at Keck Medicine of USC, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC School of Pharmacy, USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, and USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, please follow current guidelines for employee health clearance. 

Email EmployeeHotline@med.usc.edu with general questions. For health clearance to return to any Keck Medicine facility, contact the Employee Health Services dedicated service line: 323-442-5219.

Please see the list of symptoms for COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

The most important step to take is to stay home and practice respiratory hygiene (cover your cough and wash your hands frequently). Call your health care provider and let them know your symptoms. Do not go directly to an urgent care or emergency department unless you are experiencing severe, life-threatening symptoms. In many cases, your health care provider will schedule a telehealth appointment to assess your situation. Wear a face covering before interacting with others.

  • For employees (faculty and staff): Please stay at home and contact your medical provider. Notify your supervisor. Telecommute if possible, and please seek guidance from your HR partner. If you have been in a USC facility, please notify the university by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 213-740-6291.
  • For students: Your health provider is USC Student Health. Please call 213-740-9355 (WELL).

You should practice strict self-isolation until your test results are available. This includes staying home, ideally in a separate room, and practicing self-isolation.

  • For employees (faculty and staff): Please stay at home and contact your medical provider. Notify your supervisor. Telecommute if possible, and please seek guidance from your HR partner.
  • For students: Students living in shared rooms on/near campus will be relocated to a single-occupancy room. Contact the 24/7 Hotline at 213-740-6291 for assistance.

Household, intimate, and close contacts should practice self-isolation until test results are known or as advised by your health care provider.

  • For employees (faculty and staff): Within the workplace, thorough cleaning of surfaces is a proactive step while awaiting final test results. Please contact the hotline at 213-740-6291 for guidance on this issue.
  • If you are unsure if you should practice self-isolation, please contact the hotline at 213-740-6291.

Local public health authorities will evaluate and notify close contacts. They will be advised to self-isolate and monitor their symptoms for a period of 14 days since contact. While awaiting formal notification, practicing self-isolation and monitoring symptoms is advised.

  • If you are unsure if you should practice self-isolation, please contact the hotline at 213-740-6291.
  • For employees (faculty and staff): Within the workplace, thorough cleaning of surfaces may be recommended. Please contact the hotline at 213-740-6291 for guidance on this issue.

Notify the university—call the hotline at 213-740-6291 to provide additional details.

Your information will be taken and forwarded to campus leadership to develop an individualized and coordinated campus response to support you and/or your unit. This may include access to campus support resources such as housing as well as initiation of deep cleaning of campus facilities. Managers and departmental leadership should coordinate all notifications through this process to protect privacy and ensure accurate and timely information.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the operational description of close contact as being within 6 feet of another person for a combined total of 15 minutes or longer within a 24-hour period. Brief interactions are less likely to result in transmission. However, symptoms and the type of interaction (e.g., if an infected person coughs directly into the face of the exposed individual) remain important in determining if an exposure occurred.

An exposure to an exposed person does not require self-isolation or additional steps. Contact the hotline at 213-740-6291 if you have additional questions.

There is emerging data that COVID-19 is viable in aerosol form (“in the air”) and via fomites (“contact with surfaces”); this information is important to the health care setting where close contact with patients is frequent.

This may impact infection control recommendations for personal protective equipment (PPE) and sterilization processes in clinical patient care settings, such as hospitals and dental practices (where close contact and aerosolized equipment are necessities for most procedures). It is unclear how much this contributes to the spread of infection in general community settings.

For general public interaction, this does not change the current recommendations:

  • Physical distancing, including keeping a distance of 6 feet from other people, avoiding congregating in groups and not sharing food/drinks/utensils
  • Handwashing (or sanitizing gel of 60% alcohol solution) is the best protection for contact from surfaces
  • Staying home if you are sick and using telehealth to communicate with your medical provider
  • Cleaning of common surfaces in your environment with a household cleaning product

Please see the guidelines from the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidelines for returning to regular activities for those who have recovered from COVID-19.

You can be with others after:

  • Three days with no fever and
  • Symptoms have improved and
  • 10 days since symptoms first appeared

Depending on your health care provider’s advice and availability of testing, you might get tested to see if you still have COVID-19. If you will be tested, you can be around others when you have no fever, symptoms have improved, and you receive two negative test results in a row at least 24 hours apart.

Those with immune-compromised health conditions, or those who tested positive but had no symptoms, can find additional information on the CDC website.

Vaccination

On 12/3, Rod Hanners, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Keck Medicine of USC, announced that he is the chair of USC's vaccine working group, which is principally engaged in developing an evidence-based strategy for the vaccination of USC staff, faculty, students, and patients. The group, whose work is already in full swing, will also support efforts for the vaccination of the community at large. Its members include:

  • USC Provost, Charles F. Zukoski;
  • Interim Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Narsing Rao;
  • Dean of the USC School of Pharmacy, Vassilios Papadopoulos; and
  • Interim Vice President and Executive Director of Capital Construction and Facilities Management, Christopher Toomey

Some important actions have already been taken:

  • The University has secured refrigeration and freezing facilities to accommodate the storage needs of the leading vaccine candidates.
  • The University has already begun to increase staffing that will support both our expanded spring COVID-19 testing program, as well as any vaccination program that comes online this spring.

The specific areas our experts are now tackling include:

  • Determining the most equitable allocation and prioritization of vaccines for the USC community;
  • Evaluating the most effective and secure distribution of vaccines;
  • Setting internal vaccine policies for students, staff, and faculty;
  • Working with local officials to create mobile vaccine sites for the larger community; and
  • Communicating policies and procedures.