Coronavirus positivity rate spikes among students tested at Student Health

The coronavirus test positivity rate in the USC community has climbed over the last two weeks, reaching 8.9% for students and 1.8% for employees tested at Student Health from July 5 to 12, Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman announced in a communitywide memo Thursday. 

Twenty-seven of 304 students’ tests were positive, an increase Van Orman attributed to congregate living environments and gatherings, especially those held over Fourth of July weekend. One of 55 employees — with one test pending — tested positive for the virus, and Van Orman wrote that employee exposure has come mainly from the failure to adhere to social distancing guidelines during meal breaks. 

“We are seeing some worrisome trends emerge from this smaller population that our community should take into consideration,” Van Orman wrote. “We are at a critical juncture where our individual and collective actions can change the course of our future state.”

Students exposed have been contacted and isolated, and Van Orman implored adherence to medical instruction — including contact tracing — to curb the virus’ spread.

Van Orman wrote that face coverings, 6-foot distancing, cleaning and thorough sanitation have proven effective in limiting the spread of the coronavirus and that workplace configurations have been suitable for reducing transmission.

She added that there has been no transmission among students currently living in residence halls, crediting the same precautionary measures as those implemented in the workplace as well as takeout dining.

Van Orman reiterated her advice against gatherings, linking them to the recent spike in student exposure whereas previous cases resulted from community spread and travel. Additionally, she advised that students refrain from traveling during the semester.

Los Angeles County confirmed 4,244 and 2,103 hospitalizations Tuesday — each record-highs since the onset of the pandemic. Van Orman warned that overwhelming capacity in various health care units poses a threat to individuals’ access to crucial care. 

“The public health conditions around COVID-19 in Los Angeles are becoming increasingly concerning with rapid increases in the number of infections,” Van Orman wrote. “We are counting on our community to personally reduce risks, take the necessary precautions, eliminate group gatherings, and work with our health care providers, public health officials, contact tracing team, safety ambassadors, and other campus partners to keep our community safe.”