To: USC Students, Faculty and Staff
From: Sarah Van Orman, Chief Health Officer for USC Student Health
Date: March 31, 2020
Subject: COVID-19 Notifications
Over the past several days, USC Student Health has diagnosed and been notified of numerous new cases of COVID-19 infections among USC students, faculty and staff, both in Los Angeles and nationally. While initial cases were related to students returning from international travel, many are now associated with community spread and domestic travel. In the vast majority of cases, these individuals have not been present at the USC campuses while symptomatic. The combined efforts to increase safe social distancing – encouraging on-campus residential students to return to permanent home locations (for those who have that option); the transition to online learning; and the move to telecommuting and TeleHealth – have greatly decreased the potential for clusters of infection, and we are grateful to those who have endured these upheavals with calm and perseverance.
When we learn of a potential exposure on a USC campus, we first have an obligation to notify faculty, staff and students who may have been exposed. Patient privacy is of serious concern, so we will only include broad details of where and when the potential exposure took place, while still providing specific audiences with enough information to help determine if they may have had an exposure. These cases are also reviewed by a team of experts on Clery Act notifications to ensure we are providing consistent, timely and aligned communications related to health and safety considerations.
For students, faculty and staff who test positive, notifications will be made for locations and individuals who may have had a close contact exposure (within six feet, for more than ten minutes.) If this involves enclosed facilities on campus, the departmental and facilities managers will be notified, and the environment will be evaluated for risk and immediate cleaning by Environmental Health and Safety.
The growing number of cases in California and the Los Angeles region over the past days and weeks confirms that community spread is occurring. Although we will continue contact notification at this time, we also recognize that a sudden rapid surge in positive tests in Los Angeles may render that protocol obsolete. The guidance at the state and county level emphasizes that we recognize contracting COVID-19 is possible anywhere in our region.
Social distancing (six feet distance from others), personal hand hygiene, and staying away from others if we get sick, are our best and only tools to protect our region from the rising tide that has swept Italy and is now surging in New York.
But we do have reason for hope. The outpouring of support that employees have provided to each other and to students; the generosity in time, materials and ingenuity that departments have shown for our health care colleagues; and the perseverance of students in pursuing their education through all kinds of obstacles have all demonstrated a will to act decisively in fulfilling our course to mitigate spread. Communities that have worked together quickly—South Korea, New Rochelle, NY— have altered the progression of disease and mitigated the worst possible scenarios.
We have that opportunity now, by continuing to share information calmly, quickly and responsibly; by supporting all who are affected—both by infection and by disruption; and by continuing to work on solutions together.
Questions or comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; notification about an exposure or positive test should be made to the COVID-19 hotline: 213-740-6291; answers to frequently asked questions are available on the COVID-19 website.
Stay safe and stay well.