University to keep classes online

Testing is now·available for students who exhibit respiratory symptoms, including cough and sore throat, characteristic of coronavirus infection. Students must self-quarantine while awaiting test results. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)

USC has extended the period of remote instruction to the end of the semester, President Carol Folt announced in an email to the community Monday. The decision comes five days after the University announced it would transition to online classes for three weeks following spring break to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

“We are fortunate that with your help we already moved to teach our courses remotely and online, limit campus activities, implement working from home, cancel or postpone events, intensify cleaning and hygiene, take extensive precautions to protect health care workers, and ensure that our clinics and hospitals are ready to care for those most in need,” the email read.

The University has not yet made a decision on commencement but will update the community when other issues associated with completing the current semester have been resolved, the email stated. Students will be able to complete the semester and graduate, although the University encourages international students to contact the Office of International Services with travel, visa and remote instruction concerns.

As the University updates its plan for commencement, Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said USC is taking into consideration the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to halt gatherings of 50 or more people for eight weeks, or until May 10 — five days before commencement. 

The recommendation does not apply to the daily operations of universities, schools or businesses, but events that draw members from outside the community, such as commencement activities, are discouraged. According to the email, USC events taking place through May 1 will likely be canceled or postponed, an extension of the original April 13 date.

All students, including resident assistants, who are able to return to their permanent residences have been asked to leave campus. Those who remain on campus are encouraged to practice social distancing and remain in their residences as much as possible to curb the spread of the virus. 

“The majority of students living in university housing left for Spring Recess, but many did not or were unable to for a range of reasons,” the email read. “For those who stayed in university housing, please be assured, we will continue to provide housing, food and support as we work with each of you to find a solution that fits your circumstances.”

Those who have left campus are advised not to return to collect their belongings until a safe and orderly process has been implemented. The University is determining how to allocate partial refunds for housing and meal plans for those who have left campus and said it would not have an update on the process for a couple of weeks. 

EVK has switched to a to-go format until further notice, and USC Village and Parkside dining halls have ceased operation. Starbucks at Trojan Grounds and Seeds Marketplace will remain open but with limited hours and services. Some restaurants, such as Cafe Dulce, in USC Village have moved to a takeout format as well. Most University buildings, including libraries, the USC Bookstore and recreational facilities, will close until further notice. Library resources and services will still be available online. Nonessential clinics will also close temporarily. 

This decision comes after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s order Sunday to close certain public businesses, such as restaurants, movie theaters and gyms, to slow the spread of the virus. Garcetti’s mandate will remain in effect through March 31.

Staff also began working from home Monday. The University has told employees unable to perform their jobs from home that they can begin using their 10-day paid administrative leave. Employees will need to access accrued vacation time for additional pay if restrictions to University operations continue. These policies also apply to students with work-study.

“We also understand that financial uncertainties are increasing the burden of this situation on so many of you,” the email read. “We do not have all of the answers yet because the situation is still changing, but we will continue to do our best to answer your questions as soon as we are able.”

At this time, USC has publicly announced one case of coronavirus tied to the USC community. However, the student who tested positive is currently in Orange County after studying abroad in Europe and has not visited USC campuses recently, according to the University.

Van Orman said that while the risk of infection for students without underlying conditions was low, social distancing measures would help prevent community transmission and protect individuals who are immunocompromised.

“It’s so critical that people who have [coronavirus] diagnosed or have respiratory symptoms practice self-isolation, cover your cough,” Van Orman said. “Even if you’re not at higher risk, you — when you go out and interact in the world — you are at risk of spreading it to more vulnerable members of our community.”