USC resumes select on-campus activities

The University has entered the second stage of its four-phase reopening plan, Provost Charles Zukoski announced in a Universitywide email Friday. Phase 2 entails the resumption of select on-campus functions — including clinical education, Keck Medicine of USC activities and select research programs — that are contingent on appropriate social distancing measures, while most operations continue to be remote. 

University administrators are working with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials to implement safety protocols as USC transitions from primarily online to hybrid learning and operations. Departments and schools will prepare individual plans for gradual reopening based on their facilities and the risk factors associated with the programs they offer. 

“It is imperative that we share the responsibility for keeping our entire community safe,” Zukoski wrote. “We all must do our part to protect ourselves and those populations on our campus and in our neighborhoods who are at a higher risk. Anyone who is unable to follow these rules can request accommodation; all others are required to comply.”

As faculty and staff return to campus, they will be required to complete a TrojanLearn online module that comprises protocols regarding proper handwashing, physical distancing, mandatory face coverings and sanitation. It will become more widely available once the University enters the next stages of reopening. Community members are also asked to continue following state, local and Universitywide health guidelines, including wearing a face covering in all public areas of campus. 

“Every person who returns to campus is responsible not only for their own health, but in caring for the health and well-being of everyone around them,” the email read. “The training and attestation underscore the need for a commitment by all to adhere to USC’s physical distancing, personal hygiene, and facial covering requirements.”

Students, staff and faculty who return to campus in the fall will also verify daily on the Trojan Check wellness checker that they do not have symptoms of a coronavirus infection and use a pass generated by the system to access campus and select buildings. 

Testing facilities will also be available on campus for those who display coronavirus symptoms or have been exposed to an infected individual, and the University will offer quarantine housing for students who test positive or report exposure. Surveillance testing and contact tracing will also be conducted throughout the fall semester to mitigate an on-campus outbreak. Community members returning to campus from overseas will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

University facilities are currently being altered in accordance with physical distancing guidelines, such as maintaining six feet of spacing between individuals and affixing barriers where people are unable to sustain the recommended distance. The ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems have also been modified to reduce contaminant levels. In-person workspaces will be limited in attendance to comply with L.A. County guidelines, which restrict gatherings to a 10-person maximum.

Students, faculty and staff considered to be at higher risk for severe disease in case of coronavirus infection, or who have high-risk household members, can access reasonable accommodations through Disability Services and Programs.

The University acknowledged that cases in Southern California are continuing to rise and that rapidly changing circumstances may affect USC’s current hybrid plan. L.A. County reported a record-high more than 2,000 new cases Wednesday, although the number included 600 delayed cases from one testing lab. The county recorded about 1,400 new cases Friday.

Project Restart task forces are working to identify potential contingency plans, including decreasing the number of people in residence halls and increasing the number of online classes.

“We are a high-density campus in the middle of a city where community spread is rising,” the email read. “The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our paramount concern and will drive our decision making about the fall semester.”

USC will continue to update the community on decisions regarding the status of Fall 2020, including plans for housing, testing, contact tracing and instruction. 

Shaylee Navarro and Natalie Oganesyan contributed to this report.