USC distributes vaccines to surrounding community, will vaccinate on-campus employees

Between Feb. 14 and Feb. 20, 60 students and nine employees test positive for the coronavirus. This resulted in positivity rates less that 1% for both groups. (Charles McCollum | Daily Trojan)

USC is slated to receive its next supply of vaccines for distribution next week and will be vaccinating on-campus employees starting March 1, Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said in a student media briefing Thursday. 

Employees will be divided into three groups of descending priority to receive the vaccine as the supplies come in, based on their working conditions and frequency of in-person interactions.

The first group consists of workers who have remained on campus throughout the pandemic, including the CARE crew members that check identification at campus entrances, Department of Public Safety officers, Contemporary Services Corporation officers, and USC hotel employees.

The second priority group are employees coming back to campus who will be interacting with others in a limited capacity, such as faculty providing in-person instruction, researchers working with people, and campus facility employees.

The final group of employees are those coming back to campus who aren’t frequently interacting with others, such as faculty visiting their office and researchers working in labs. 

“We will work down through our vaccines, our employees on campus as quickly as possible,” Van Orman said. 

Surplus vaccines from this week were administered to individuals aged 65 and older living near the USC campus, according to an email sent to on-site employees. 

“We worked with our local community groups, our neighborhood council employees, to provide vaccines to individuals that were 65 and above that might not otherwise have an opportunity to be vaccinated,” Van Orman said. 

As of Wednesday, the Keck School of Medicine has distributed 30,000 vaccines and Student Health has distributed 2,729 first doses and 2,538 second doses, according to Van Orman. Both the University Park and the Health Sciences campuses currently house multiple vaccination sites, receiving vaccines depending on the supply of the state and county. 

Van Orman said she meets with Student Health teams to review their protocols for academic activities, which includes “a very rigorous process” of checking individuals in and out, providing supervision and wiping down chairs and equipment. 

“There’s a whole set of things that are in place to make sure that while people are here, even if someone were to be infectious during that period, their risk of spreading it to other people is really minimal,” Van Orman said. “That’s mainly through the facial covering, the physical distancing and the types of activities that are allowed.”

Van Orman recommends students still wear a mask, preferably two, and refrain from social gatherings. She advised students to wear either a surgical-quality mask or a cloth mask with multiple layers of protection. 

“I think it’s a great time for people to evaluate the quality of the facial coverings that they’re wearing,” Van Orman said. “If you breathe in and out and it moves with your breathing … you kind of feel that a seal is happening, that’s a good quality.”

Moving forward, on-campus access will be more controlled to prevent further spread, Van Orman said. Visitors will be required to check in and out, maintain a six foot distance, and wear facial coverings. 

Sixty students and nine employees tested positive for the coronavirus between Feb. 14 and Feb. 20. Both groups’ positive rates were below 1%. Two students were confirmed to have the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. and two other cases are under investigation, according to a statement provided to the Daily Trojan from L.A. Public Health and USC. 

“We are as a community, as a country, as a world [are] in a little bit of a race against time to get cases down, to stop transmission, to get people vaccinated before we have significant variant viruses that may not be as impacted by vaccines, for which people who’ve been previously infected may not have immunity, and which has the potential to be more transmissible,” Van Orman said. “It does make us want to really redouble efforts. At this point it’s really about continuing aggressive mitigation efforts.”