Sarah Van Orman, MD, MMM, FACHA, Chief Health Officer, USC Student Health, Division Chief for College Health, Keck School of Medicine of USC
Deona Willes, MPH, CLS, Executive Director, USC Environmental Health and Safety
We are sharing with our community recent updates to measures related to COVID-19 safety, as emergency declarations for our state and region have recently ended, marking a significant chapter close in the long journey of COVID-19 from pandemic to endemic illness. From the time our teams began monitoring the situation in January of 2020 , the stakes were incredibly high, which prompted swift evaluation, planning and action. The nature of a potentially life-threatening novel virus that is easily spread is one of the most serious situations we can imagine. More than 1.1 million people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 6.8 million people have died worldwide, many from infections at a time when vaccines and therapeutics were not yet in existence. Each life had immeasurable value, and many, many people have been touched by enduring loss.
In the face of this serious illness, our community spent countless hours working to prevent transmission, provide technology support to keep learning and keep teaching, providing support to students and members of the community, keeping our spirits and energies up through Zooms and new variants, providing testing (more than 1 million tests through Student Health alone), vaccinating thousands of Angelenos at major sites throughout the County, ensuring critical functions in essential services continued, creating safety protocols through programs like the Care Crew, Trojan Check and ventilation upgrades, and above all, protecting the health and safety of our university community to the best of our abilities.
We know it has been thousands of hours of work, caring, and teamwork that has brought us through the pandemic. We could not imagine at the time how hard this would be, how much it would take, and yet many at the university contributed with what seemed to be superhuman effort, putting forward our best selves to help our community when it needed us the most. You have each made a difference. We can each be proud to be a Trojan for what we have accomplished, together.
Following the end of the LA County emergency declaration for COVID-19 on March 31, and the ending of the state declaration earlier on February 28, the following changes are planned:
Changes in COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements
For next year’s incoming class, for students in non-health degree programs, the COVID-19 vaccination (primary series and booster when eligible) is moving to the category of “strongly recommended” instead of required. This change in policy also applies to most campus-based employees (faculty and staff).
Please note that due to continued requirements within LA County, COVID-19 immunization decisions for Keck Medicine and other employees within healthcare settings are separate and will be communicated by your school or department, as will requirements for students in the health professions degree programs — if you are a student in these programs, your requirements will be communicated by your academic programs.
This change will take effect on May 19, after the end of the Spring 2023 semester.
Closing of Testing Tents
Also on this date, COVID-19 testing at both HSC and UPC will move from saliva testing at the tents to pick up of antigen kits, as the testing tents will be permanently closed down. Antigen kits will continue to be available to students and employees at no cost.
- Testing sites at Jefferson Lot and Pappas Quad will no longer be in service. Employees and students may pick up antigen test kits (at no charge) from the USC bookstores, Engemann and Eric Cohen student health centers, and from the CSC desks in USC Housing.
- Ongoing surveillance for COVID-19 (and norovirus) will continue through wastewater testing in USC Housing properties. Residents will receive notifications to test when thresholds for concern of transmission are detected.
Changes to “testing out” from COVID-19 isolation
As of April 1, 2023, USC Student Health has updated its protocol for non-healthcare settings in alignment with guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer required to have a negative antigen test before leaving isolation after the first five days in isolation; negative tests remain strongly recommended before ending isolation between day 6-10.
Positive individuals should meet the following criteria before ending isolation after day 5:
- You have no fever for 24 hours (without using fever-reducing medicines).
- Your symptoms are improving.
During days 6-10, you must exercise additional precautions:
- Wear a well-fitting surgical mask or N95 mask at all times.
- Eat alone or outdoors.
Healthcare workers are required to isolate for a minimum of 5 days. If returning to work prior to Day 10, you are still required to have a negative antigen test within 24 hours of returning to work.
N95 masks are available to employees through Environmental Health and Safety. See the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health guidance on masking for recommendations on usage.
We thank our USC community — students, faculty, staff — for taking all the necessary precautions (including washing your hands, which we hope is an enduring habit!) during the past three years of pandemic illness.
Your teamwork and cooperation have proven that we are the Trojan Family, and we fight on, always.