Spring 2022 COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols

Dec. 28, 2021

TO:           USC Students, Faculty and University Staff

RE:            Spring 2022 COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols

FR:            Sarah Van Orman, MD, MMM, FACHA, Chief Health Officer, USC Student Health

We hope you are enjoying a restorative Winter Break. As we prepare for the new year and the 2022 Spring semester, we are sharing some specific details regarding health and safety campus protocols around COVID-19.

COVID-19 Boosters

The University is requiring booster doses for all students, faculty, and staff. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19. See previous important messages regarding test positivity in the surge operations message of Dec 23, 2021 and the Spring semester update of Dec. 24, 2021.

Why are boosters necessary?

The Omicron variant (that four weeks ago was not detected in the U.S. and is now the dominant strain in the U.S.) has mutations that can help it evade the immune system’s defenses. Your immune defenses, established from previous vaccination, and/or your previous COVID-19 infection, may not be robust enough to stop an Omicron infection and illness that is easily transmissible to others.

Recent evidence also shows that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 decreases over time. The eligibility and timeframe for getting a booster is as follows:

Minimum timeframe — Five (5) months after your primary series, either a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna; two (2) months after receiving a Johnson & Johnson single dose. Ages 16 and older.

You may receive any booster of your choice. An mRNA vaccine (Pfizer in particular, but both Pfizer and Moderna are accepted mRNA boosters) is highly recommended as these booster doses have shown to be most effective in restoring immune defense against Omicron. 

You will have a 30-day grace period to receive your booster after your primary series. 

A) Unvaccinated individuals with previously approved medical or religious exemptions may retain exemption from the booster requirement. Regular COVID-19 testing cadence is every 72 hours for unvaccinated individuals. 

Campus Timeframe Requirements for Boosters

This will be reflected in your individual Trojan Check compliance screen.

If you completed the Pfizer or Moderna primary series, you are required to receive a booster no later than six (6) months after your second dose.

If you completed the Johnson and Johnson single dose, you are required to receive a booster no later than three (3) months after your single dose.

International Vaccines: If you completed a WHO EUL vaccine series or a mixed series of EUL and Pfizer/Moderna, you are required to receive a booster no later than six (6) months after your second dose.

Please arrange to have your booster shot as soon as you are eligible. Retail, pharmacy, and public vaccination sites near your Winter Break location are recommended if you are currently away from campus.

If you are currently eligible, you should arrange to receive a booster prior to coming to campus for the spring semester—January 3, 2022 is the spring return date for faculty and staff; and January 24, 2022 is the start of in-person classes.

Additional restrictions will be in effect on January 31, 2022 for individuals who have not met the booster requirement.

Upload your booster shot documentation into MySHR in the “upload documents” section if you have received booster.


Weekly surveillance testing for all USC students will continue for the beginning of the Spring 2022 semester. Unvaccinated (with approved exemption) and individuals without boosters should follow the testing cadence described in section A.

Pre-travel: Students are required to test for COVID-19 prior to leaving their Winter Break location, it is recommended that you test 48 hours prior to leaving. Upload your results into MySHR. If you test positive, you should remain in your current location and isolate for ten (10) days; complete the contact tracing form in MySHR. If your test is negative and you are moving into USC Housing as a new resident, keep a printed or digital copy of your negative results to show to USC Housing for entry to move-in. If you cannot re-test due to a previous COVID-19 infection, please obtain a “90 day exemption” letter from your health care provider.

Note on test types — Laboratory-run PCR tests are the gold standard for detecting infection, however, you may choose an at-home rapid antigen test if that is more easily available to you. Rapid antigen tests do not amplify virus particles for more sensitivity in detection; these tests are more effective in detecting infection in an individual with higher viral load (typically 48 hours or longer from the time of exposure and onset of infection.)

Arrival to Campus: After arriving on campus, arrange to test (schedule an appointment in MySHR) within 3-5 days of arrival through the Pop Testing program. Limit your contact with others and do not attend large group activities until you receive a negative test result. 

  • If you are an unvaccinated traveler, you are required to quarantine for 7 days (even with a negative test) per State of California Public Health guidance. Please make your arrangements independently. 
  • If you are an international traveler, you should test within 24 hours after arrival to the U.S.

Additional instructions for moving into residence halls will follow from USC Housing to residents expected for Spring move-in and return to rooms/suites.


As a reminder, masking is required for all indoor settings on campus as well as by Los Angeles County Public Health Officer order. As Los Angeles County is experiencing high transmission of COVID-19, it is recommended to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others.

Ensure your mask fits snugly against all sides of your face and completely covers your nose and mouth; has two or more layers; and has a nose wire that prevents air from leaking out of the top of the mask.

Handwashing remains one of the best tools we have against spread of infection. Using soap and water for 20 seconds on all surfaces of your hands (nails, palms, backs, up to your wrists) is a hospital-recommended infection control measure that is proven to reduce transmission. If you do not have immediate access to handwashing, an alcohol-based sanitizer is also effective.


As you may already know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released revised guidance on isolation and quarantine for individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 or test positive. This guidance has specific recommendations based on vaccination and booster status, with strict adherence to masking. We expect additional guidance to be released shortly from local public health authorities that will inform any changes in isolation and quarantine protocols for students, faculty or staff at the University.

If you have questions regarding COVID-19 protocols, please contact the COVID-19 response center, 213-740-6291, covid19@usc.edu.

Stay safe and stay well; we look forward to seeing you this spring semester.

Note: This message was updated 1/23/22 with revised guidance on boosters from the CDC. Pfizer, Moderna, and EUL primary series vaccinations are recommended to have booster doses after 5 months, not 6 months, after completion.