11/10: Thanksgiving Holidays/Winter Break Travel and Safety

To: USC students, faculty, and staff

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

Deona Willes, Director of Environmental Health and Safety

Date: November 10, 2020

Subject: Thanksgiving Holidays/Winter Break Travel and Safety

With the end of the semester and Thanksgiving holiday approaching, we know that many students, faculty and staff are considering travel and testing arrangements. For those in the vicinity of our USC campuses, we have prepared the following safety guidelines. Travel is only recommended if you plan to remain at your destination for the entire winter break period; traveling back and forth to the campus vicinity during the winter break is not recommended for community public health safety. Students remaining in Los Angeles over the Thanksgiving weekend can sign up for a special Holiday boxed meal.

Whether you are planning to travel to visit relatives or are departing home for the semester, we strongly recommend that you test prior to your departure. Be sure to have the test close to the date of travel, but with enough time to receive your results BEFORE departure. Campus testing generally requires 3-4 days to receive results. (If traveling by plane, check with your airline about specific pre-boarding testing requirements.) For students living near campus, and employees required to work on-campus, this can be completed through the Pop Testing surveillance testing program.

Faculty and staff who are working remotely may find a local testing center at the follow LA County website: covid19.lacounty.gov/testing

  • REMINDER: 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. This is especially important if someone in the household is at higher risk for severe disease. 
  • 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.

A traditional part of Thanksgiving, sharing meals, is unfortunately one of the riskiest activities for transmission. Consider hosting a virtual event or limiting dining to those in your household—this is the safest plan for everyone. If you decide to join or combine households, please plan with the following safe distancing recommendations in mind.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer) before you eat, serve food or handle utensils.
  • Do not use common serving utensils. Have one person (with washed hands, wearing a face covering) serve portions on plates. Place the plates separately where individuals can pick them up themselves. Have utensils separately wrapped in a napkin and spaced apart for pick up. This is especially advisable for all foods that are typically shared or served, such as breads/rolls, cake/pies, pizza, salads, side dishes, chicken wings, etc.
  • Avoid pitchers; individual bottled drinks provide fewer point of contact opportunities.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others, especially while eating, and remain outdoors if possible.
  • When you are not eating or drinking, wear your face covering, especially when speaking in an enclosed space, speaking loudly, or singing and cheering. Talking, especially with force, can spread respiratory droplets at a farther range.
  • Use face coverings and good hand hygiene when cleaning up plates, utensils and glasses after the meal.
  • Reminder: An exposure to COVID-19 is defined as being within 6 ft. of a positive individual for a combined total of 15 minutes or longer within a 24-hour period. Keeping track of who you were in contact with at a family gathering can be crucial in contact tracing if someone later has symptoms or tests positive.

All students, faculty and staff who will be returning to the campuses after traveling or attending gatherings are advised to get a COVID-19 test before re-entering the university community. This can be completed through the Pop Testing surveillance testing program.

We wish you a safe and peaceful holiday break, with renewed energies for the spring semester.