10/26: Late Fall Community Health Update

To: USC Students and Parents

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

cc: USC Faculty and Staff

Date: October 26, 2020

Subject: Late Fall Community Health Update

As several critical events approach in the coming weeks, we are providing you with an update to help guide decisions that may impact our community and efforts for a safer winter and early spring season. Our campus continues to see low numbers of cases among students, faculty, and staff. Thank you to everyone for their efforts to protect our campus and community. For the most recent case numbers, visit our newly updated COVID-19 dashboard on the coronavirus.usc.edu website.

Los Angeles County remains in Tier 1, the most restrictive tier, in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The tiered framework, places counties in one of 4 tiers depending on three metrics measuring community transmission and health equity. Options for sector re-openings, including schools, and permitted activities are aligned with each Tier. The County’s level of community transmission is still too high to advance to the next tier. 


Parties and large gatherings remain prohibited by public health order and university policy. The LA County Dept. of Public Health recently updated the Health Officer Order to align with State guidance on private gatherings, which allow limited private gatherings with three or fewer households. It should be noted that dormitories/residence halls, group living situations, boarding houses, fraternities and sororities are specifically excluded from the definition of a household.

This guidance is in effect for any activities planned for Halloween on Oct. 31 and the Nov. 7 home football game. For reference on planning safe activities, the State of California and LA County have released guidelines for safer Halloween activities.

  • No tailgating or other gathering is permitted on any campus properties, including the Great Lawn at USC Village. We encourage cheering on our Trojans at home, wearing cardinal and gold, and having virtual watch parties.

Safe physical distancing protocols for voting are in place at the UPC voting center hosted at the Galen Center, open from Oct. 30 – Nov. 3. The Galen Center is located at the corner of Figueroa Street and Jefferson Boulevard, with the voters’ entrance on the building’s south side. Parking is free at the Figueroa Parking Structure located behind the USC Hotel on Figueroa Street. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, strict protocols will be enforced at the Galen Center, including required wearing of masks, physical distancing, frequent sanitizing of hands and equipment, adequate ventilation and one-directional foot traffic.

The Health Sciences Campus vote center, at  Soto 1 building at 2001 N. Soto St., will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. Parking will be free.

It is critically important that students and employees not attend any private gatherings if they are experiencing symptoms of illness, have tested positive for COVID-19 or if they have been exposed or likely have been exposed (within 6 ft., for a total of 15 minutes or longer over a 24-hour period) to someone who is positive. 


The highest number of cases among all age groups in L.A. County are in residents between the ages of 30 and 49 years old at 34% of all cases. The second highest are among residents between the ages of 18 and 29 years old with 25% of all cases. The higher transmission rate among younger individuals, who may be asymptomatic or experience very mild symptoms, can create transmission to older and higher risk populations. Consideration for the health of our neighbors and our shared community family—some of whom have a disproportionate risk of disease severity and case fatality by age, race, and socioeconomic status—is a strong and valid concern. In LA County, 74% of COVID-related deaths have occurred in residents over the age of 65. 


  • Test weekly: for students living in USC Housing or in the USC vicinities.
  • Influenza vaccine: get your flu immunization. Influenza vaccination protects everyone in our community and is required for all students, faculty, and staff living on or coming to USC campuses. 
  • Avoid gatherings, especially if you may be preparing for travel to visit family.
  • Limit the number of people you agree to see in person. Meet outdoors, wear a face covering, keep interactions brief (under 15 minutes) and safely physically distanced (6 ft. apart). Do not arrange for food or drinks to be shared if and when you meet. Do not meet if either person has even mild symptoms.
  • Use facial coverings. Facial coverings are effective in preventing spread of disease. Facial coverings are required at all times at USC including in outdoor areas.


Travel, by its nature, increases the risk of transmission among groups of people.

  • If you choose to travel, read the safer domestic travel guide prepared by USC Environmental Health and Safety.
  • For the first 14 days after arrival, stay physically distant from family household members, wear a face covering and be especially mindful of hand and respiratory hygiene, especially if sharing bathrooms, kitchens, and meals.
  • Test before travel and if possible after arrival.
  • Delay travel if you are sick or exposed. Anyone feeling ill, recently diagnosed with COVID-19(within 10 days), or exposed to someone with COVID-19(within 14 days), should self-isolate and delay travel. Follow guidance from your health care provider regarding when recommended isolation/quarantine periods are complete and travel can be safe.


Questions and concerns about COVID-19, and report of positive cases, may be directed to the COVID-19 response line, 213-740-6291, covid19@usc.edu, 7 days a week until 9 p.m.

If you are experiencing heightened stress or anxiety, “Let’s Talk” one-to-one conversations with a counselor are available, and special “Election Stress” workshops have been added to the Counseling and Mental Health Services outreach programs; all programs are led by clinical faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Keck School of Medicine of USC. These programs are available to all USC students regardless of current geographic location and can be scheduled through MySHR (https://usc.edu/myshr). Reach out and help will be available. Our 24/7 phone line is 213-740-9355 (WELL) for urgent medical and mental health concerns.

Stay safe and stay well.