To: USC Community
From: Charles F. Zukoski, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; Sarah Van Orman, Chief Health Officer, USC Student Health
As of Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared information that community spread of COVID-19 in the United States is likely to occur. Yesterday, a new confirmed case in Solano County in northern California indicates that community transmission (without direct contact from a recent international traveler) may have already occurred.
The risk in California remains low. With the exception of selected international travel, we are continuing all our normal activities, including in-person classes and events. Our focus is on campus-wide preparedness.
We are closely following the conditions internationally where our students and employees are studying and working and when necessary assisting those individuals to return to campus and/or the Unites States. USC monitors guidance from the CDC and coordinates with local public health officials on recommendations for screening and restrictions for any arriving travelers.
Community Transmission in the U.S. and Preparedness
Community transmission would change the public health strategy to mitigating further spread of the virus. This approach could involve social distancing measures to decrease potential contact between large groups of individuals—such as postponing large-scale events, moving activities to online modes, or other changes.
We have seen that community transmission in other countries have occurred unexpectedly and caused major disruptions. With that in mind, we are preparing as a campus community to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff so we can continue our teaching, research, and service with as few interruptions as possible.
The campus Emergency Operations group has been activated since late January and has implemented contingencies for medical care, housing, study abroad relocation, emergency communications and a separate team is working with the academic and administrative units for campus continuity.
The majority of COVID-19 cases will present with mild symptoms which would require home isolation and health monitoring, and hygiene practices to prevent spread to others. A much smaller population of patients with severe respiratory symptoms would require hospitalization.
What You Can Do
STUDENTS: Students should be aware of the risks of travel restrictions/disruptions, especially in planning for the upcoming spring break. Flight cancelations, quarantines, and border closures have been implemented by several countries on short notice. The university strongly recommends postponing nonessential personal travel outside of the U.S. at this time.
FACULTY AND STAFF: USC faculty and staff (not including health care employees) are expected to be at work. Faculty and staff are required to upload university-related travel itineraries to Concur (for guidance on this process: https://businessservices.usc.edu/travel/).
Employees are advised to work with their departments, business continuity, and human resources contacts to make contingency plans to offer core services in the event of disruption. Employees should refer to guidelines from Environmental Health and Safety for general information on COVID-19, infection prevention, and hygiene measures.
KECK MEDICINE OF USC EMPLOYEES: Health care employees will receive updated communications by email from Keck Medicine of USC leadership on any updated processes; all Keck employees are advised to follow current policies from employee health and be familiar with the sick policies.
All USC Community Members: All members of the community should evaluate their personal preparedness plans. Discuss with your household the impacts of public school and daycare closures; extended demands for the health care workforce, emergency services, and operations personnel; and other disruptions to public life that may influence your personal decisions and your ability to continue regular work responsibilities.
All of us can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 by remembering to:
• Stay at home if you are sick. Faculty should not require notes from medical providers for students who may have absences due to respiratory or other illnesses.
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Cover your cough and sneeze with your elbow or sleeve.
• Avoid touching your nose and mouth.
• Wearing face masks as a routine practice is not recommended.
As always, we are a community that is working together to support each other, work toward solutions, and provide outstanding care and compassion to all. The safety and well-being of our entire community are the highest priority to all USC leadership.
Please continue to stay updated by checking your USC email regularly and visiting our consolidated coronavirus website for current information.
• Call the COVID-19 hotline: 213-740-6291 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, including issues related to international travel.
• For students seeking medical care from USC Student Health: Call 213-740-9355 (WELL)
• For faculty and staff seeking support, please contact the Center for Work & Family Life at 213-821-0800.
• For any university member seeking support, please contact Campus Support & Intervention at 213-740-0411.
• To express concern about the health or well-being of a member of the USC community, contact Trojans Care for Trojans through the online form or email email@example.com.