Van Orman announces new fall housing, hybrid instruction and health measures

An update regarding several new health and safety measures, including campus housing, contact tracing and classes for the fall semester was relayed in an Universitywide email from Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman Monday. 

As USC continues to plan for the on-campus fall semester amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a surge of cases in Southern California, Van Orman stated that reducing campus density is critical to the University’s assurance of safety and compliance with Los Angeles County Department of Health guidelines.

“Campus housing is being reconfigured for appropriate distancing between students residing on campus,” the memo read. “All rooms will be single occupancy this year.”

Approximately 98% of USC freshmen live in USC housing, the majority in traditional double or triple bedrooms. According to the memo, all students living in USC housing will partake in daily symptom checks available online that are required each time students enter USC housing or the campus at large. Students will use the Trojan Check system that will give students an access code.

Van Orman wrote that further details regarding USC Housing’s procedures will be announced shortly.

The memo also announced details regarding the University’s contact tracing team, which will consist of Student Health professionals. The team has been working to identify, trace and isolate positive coronavirus cases on campus since the pandemic’s emergence earlier this year. However, the group will remain in place for the fall to quarantine and isolate infected individuals and their contacts.

Additionally, the memo released new information regarding University classes — an update to previous announcements that have been made regarding hybrid, remote or in-person instruction. While some schools, such as the School of Cinematic Arts, have already announced adapting instruction in the fall, Van Orman wrote that in-person classes will likely only be able to accommodate 30 to 40 students in order to maintain 6 feet of physical distance during instruction.

The memo also states that students will be able to check if their courses are in person, hybrid or online through WebReg, the University’s registration system, in the coming weeks. Though outbreaks are expected to occur, isolation and quarantine procedures will be available and required, Van Orman wrote.

“All students should have honest and thoughtful conversations about their personal health and well-being with their families and/or personal support networks in order to decide whether any sort of campus-return is right for them,” the memo read. “While USC is prepared to provide support through dedicated accommodations and regular check-ins, quarantine and isolation may be difficult for many students.”

Van Orman also urged students to consider that student life will look drastically different in the fall and that large social gatherings and close-contact exposures, such as congregating with large groups of friends, will be strictly prohibited. However, the University has yet to make any explicit announcement regarding enforcement mechanisms or how it will prevent students from gathering. 

“Safe, physically distanced outdoor activities, as well as some in-person dining and meetings will be permitted through University and L.A. County guidelines,” the memo read. “We are currently working on a number of exciting extracurricular, professional, and cultural programs, initiatives and events to keep students engaged and thriving — intellectually, socially and emotionally.”

While more information about student life considerations will be released soon, the memo also outlined steps all students must take before returning to campus, including completing immunizations, committing to receiving a flu shot in late September and early October, completing the “Health, Hygiene and Safety for Students” online training through TrojanLearn launching July 1, updating current home addresses in OASIS and creating a support plan. 

The memo also stated that all travelers from international destinations must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, as required by the L.A. County Department of Public Health. 

“This requirement, combined with other U.S. government travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens, pose difficulties for arrival and in-person attendance for our international students this semester; the University and academic programs will be sharing guidance on navigating this situation very soon,” the memo read. 

According to the email, the University will communicate further information about the fall semester return in the coming weeks.