8/21: Community Health and Contact Tracing

August 21, 2020

Dear USC Students and Families,

As the fall semester has started, we hope you are adjusting to the new schedules and demands of the academic year. With the beginning of the term, some groups of students have begun to arrive in the USC campus neighborhoods, joining a limited number of students in USC Housing. The greater number of individuals living together—particularly with shared common spaces, kitchens and bathrooms—poses additional opportunities for transmission of COVID-19. Over the past week, we have seen an increase of cases among students returning to the local area. 

I’ve heard from many USC students and parents who are concerned about taking safe precautions regarding COVID-19. We thank each of you who has expressed seriousness with regard to the pandemic and its wide-reaching effects. We share your concerns.

When a student is diagnosed with COVID-19, they are contacted by a member of the dedicated USC contact tracing team through USC Student Health. We will ask detailed information about contacts and activities during the infectious period. During this pandemic from our first cases in spring through today, more than 200 individuals in the university community—students, staff and faculty—have had the experience of being informed that they are positive for COVID-19. This is often not easy to hear, and our contact tracing team is aware that learning this news may create anxiety, fear and reluctance to share information.

We want to assure our community that our contact tracing teams are sensitive to the privacy issues involved with our patients. Our goal is to protect your health and well-being, maintain your privacy, and also quickly notify those who are potentially exposed to risk so they can monitor their health and get tested. This can prevent larger outbreaks. 

  • Contact tracing information is used for the sole purpose of protecting community health. Your activities are not shared with student conduct teams or others in the University; your name is not shared when notifying those who may have been exposed. Our concern is your health, and the health of your friends and community. 
  • Testing through USC Student Health (not an outside provider) is the fastest route for ill or exposed students to receive care and appropriate isolation measures. It is the key to containing outbreaks from reaching others in the USC community and elsewhere in Los Angeles. Call 213-740-9355 (WELL) or go online at https://usc.edu/mySHR to schedule an appointment. 
  • USC can offer support to students who are diagnosed including housing for quarantine and/or isolation, medical care and mental health support. 
  • Information must be shared with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, but this information, including the name(s) of ill persons, is confidential in order to protect patient privacy. 

I would like to share a note from one of our USC parents, whose student received a COVID-19 positive diagnosis and received isolation and care during his illness:

“I wanted to personally thank you and USC on behalf of myself and my husband for the incredible support, care and help my son got from USC during this difficult time. I have no words to express our appreciation and gratitude to USC for being the parents and caretakers of our son at a time when we could not reach him from Canada. We were so worried when we got the news that he was exposed to corona…we were feeling so lost and distraught but USC relieved our stress about his stay and food by providing him with the hotel stay to self isolate, unlimited meals and continuous health follow ups from USC Health. We are blessed that our son studies in a University that takes care of their own.
THANK YOU from the depths of our hearts for the exceptional support and care you provided to our son!!”

We are gratified and proud to provide care to all our USC students through this pandemic. Thank you for keeping our community safe and entrusting us with your care.


Sarah Van Orman, M.D., MMM, FACHA 
Chief Health Officer, USC Student Health
Associate Vice Provost for Student Health
Division Chief of College Health
Clinical Professor of Family Medicine