COVID-19 Update (2/18)

TO: USC Campus Community

FR:       Sarah Van Orman, Chief Health Officer, USC Student Health; Division Chief for College Health, Keck School of Medicine of USC

The spring 2022 current outlook on COVID-19 transmission has greatly improved at USC and in LA County since the peak of the winter surge last month. As of this week, the test positivity rates for our campuses have dropped to 1.31% for students, and 0.87% for employees, matching a similar rate of decline in LA County.

We appreciate the efforts of our students, faculty, and staff who have collectively created a protected environment with adherence to the vaccination, booster, and testing requirements. Vaccination with boosters continues to be an important contributing factor in protecting our campuses. If you have not yet received a booster, you may still receive it next week through USC Pharmacy locations or at retail sites near you. If you recovered from COVID-19 during this past winter, it is still recommended that you receive a booster to complete your immunity.

At this point in the pandemic, we are looking at the future with plans to modify protocols that remove mitigation levels as public health orders are revised to lift restrictions. 

As announced on February 16, Los Angeles County removed restrictions for outdoor masking, based on improved metrics for hospitalizations and case fatalities. Outdoor masking is now also lifted for university-sponsored events. Masking is required indoors, on transportation, and at health care facilities (including testing sites). We are anticipating that metrics will continue to improve even more in one more week, so are planning for a lifting of some campus measures slated for March 1.

As of March 1, the university is modifying the requirements for surveillance testing of students, as the first of a phased approach to lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Progression of lifting restrictions at USC will occur simultaneously as revised LADPH Health Officer Orders are released, as required by law. 

Testing: On March 1, students who are up to date on their vaccinations (fully vaccinated; and have received a booster if currently eligible) are no longer required to test weekly. Testing requirements for unvaccinated with approved exemption (every 72 hours) and individuals not up to date on vaccinations (every 4 days) remain in effect.  The weekly testing cadence is no longer required, but please remember that testing remains available for all students, faculty and staff. This service should be used by anyone who is symptomatic; exposed to a positive case of COVID-19; or wants to test before/after attending a large gathering, travel, or other possible heightened risk of exposure.

Additional modifications on this date include protocols regarding:

  • Gyms: Reservations will no longer be required for general access to the USC Village, Lyon Center, and HSC Fitness Center Gyms. Please follow guidance and instructions from Recreational Sports.
  • Guests in Residence Halls: Guests will be permitted in the campus residence halls. Please follow guidance and instructions from Residential Education.

Please refer to the March 1 transition guide for information about what is different (and what remains the same) for COVID-19 safety at this phase. As we prepare for additional phases of lifting restrictions, we will share updates and milestone dates with the community. After two years, we recognize this has been an arduous journey, from our first health alert to one most recent one million test milestone.

We appreciate our campuses’ hard work, resilience, support for one another, and shared sense of community as we make our way toward more hopeful spring.

Stay safe, and fight on!