4/7: Update on Face Covering Recommendations

To: USC Essential Employees and On-Campus Students

Sarah Van Orman, Chief Health Officer for USC Student Health
Deona Willes, Director, Office of Environmental Health and Safety

Date: April 7, 2020

Subject: Update on Face Covering Recommendations

New guidance from state and national public health authorities is now available regarding the use of face masks and/or cloth face coverings in public settings. As COVID-19 continues to have significant community transmission in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the world, guidance on infection control measures will shift to meet the current challenges. In the U.S. and other countries, we should assume that everywhere we go, every surface we touch, every person that we come into contact with may potentially be infectious.

Surgical face masks and N95 face masks are part of the much-needed supplies for frontline health care providers and first responders who encounter risks of exposure while caring for patients with illness. The close contact (within 6 feet, for more than 10 minutes) nature of their work puts these employees at greater risk of infection — through higher frequency and viral load exposure from hospitalized patients. A surgical mask is also an important supply for the patient who is ill; a “source control” measure to reduce respiratory droplets from reaching others. It is critically important to keep these items directed to our health care environment as we encounter a prolonged period of equipment shortage and expected surge in cases in the region.

Individuals who provide valuable “on site” work should be protected by appropriate “contactless” workflow provisions, appropriate social distancing (6 feet), cleaned and disinfected common work areas, and when recommended by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The guide sheet from EHS explains the grades of risk from very low to high, with the appropriate safety measures.

For all individuals, the safest measures continue to be to stay at home for anything other than essential needs, social distance by minimizing contact with other individuals, staying 6 feet away from others, and frequent handwashing for 20 seconds or using a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizing solution.

The addition of a cloth face covering (cloth mask, scarf, bandanna) may help reduce the spread of potentially infectious droplets within the community when combined with these other measures. USC employees working on campus and USC students residing on campus are asked to adopt this practice when present in public areas of campus, in addition to the previously established social distancing and hand hygiene practice. Face coverings are not a substitute for compliance with current social distancing and hand washing guidance, which should be consistently observed.

In order to support this recommendation, USC is procuring face coverings for students residing on campus and essential employees working on campus for their personal use; distribution points will be designated on campus as supplies are received. Employees and students may also choose to use a face covering of their choice that they make or provide themselves. Use of personal face coverings should not be substituted for employees who have received direction from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) to use other forms of personal protective equipment.

For more complete information on when and how to use, make, and clean cloth face coverings, please see these guidelines developed by EHS.

Additional information is also available from the Los Angeles Countyand California Departments of Public Health.

Please contact us if you have questions:

We will continue to update the community with current information and recommendations, as the health, safety and well-being of our Trojan Family remains front and center of all our actions and concerns.

Stay safe and stay well.