USC to amend housing policies

Several storied building with a red, yellow bordered sign reading "Keck School of Medicine of USC."
Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said upcoming events like the Trojan family weekend and fall recess are a “risk” to improving coronavirus trends seen on campus. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan file photo)

The Office of Residential Education will make a “significant change” to existing USC Housing guidelines on Oct. 18, Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said in a USC Student Health briefing Tuesday.

The “no-guest policy” — a coronavirus USC Housing guideline that prohibits students from entering other on-campus residential facilities — has been in effect since the beginning of the fall semester. In a briefing last week, Van Orman said the guideline was under active reconsideration. This policy was neither a directive from Los Angeles County or state public health orders, but a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Van Orman said the housing guideline is a Residential Education policy, not one from Student Health. 

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, USC Student Affairs wrote that the existing “no-guest policy” is subject to change as they monitor the positivity rate in USC Housing residences.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to relax the guest policy in the residential communities sometime in the fall. However, at this time, the guest restrictions remain in place,” the statement read. “As conditions change and guidelines allow, we will make appropriate changes to the restrictions and the Residential Education team will ensure that all residents are updated.” 

The developing news on the housing guidelines comes as weekly coronavirus cases and positivity rates continue to decline. Of the tests administered last week, 37 students tested positive for the coronavirus, yielding a positivity rate of 0.11% — the lowest case and positivity levels reported since the start of the fall semester. 

On Sept. 15, the Los Angeles County Health Department issued a public health order requiring employees and customers of some indoor venues and mega-outdoor events to present proof of vaccination. According to the L.A. County directive, residents must receive one dose of the coronavirus vaccination by Thursday and their second dose by Nov. 4 to enter these venues. 

In accordance with local health policy, Athletic Director Mike Bohn said the University will require all guests visiting campus or the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on gameday to present proof of vaccination or documentation of a negative coronavirus test taken no more than 72 hours prior to game time. Guests will also be required to complete Trojan Check, according to Bohn’s campuswide memo Tuesday.

USC will enforce the vaccine requirement by issuing wristbands to guests in compliance with the policy — enabling them to bypass the testing and vaccine verification process at the Coliseum. Guests under the age of 12 are exempt from the vaccine and testing requirement as the demographic remains ineligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. 

Van Orman described upcoming events such as Trojan Family Weekend and fall recess as a “risk” to the progress established by the declining coronavirus trends but remains hopeful high vaccination rates will protect the campus community from experiencing another surge in cases. 

“We’re very hopeful with where we are. We see really good numbers in California, as well as here at USC. We do have two potential things coming; one is Trojan family weekend, which we know will have visitors, and just people coming from different parts of the U.S. will be a risk,” Van Orman said. “We’re hopeful given where case rates are now, our very high vaccination rates, that if we see any increase, it’ll be very modest.” 

Van Orman encouraged students to remain cautious and offered guidance for those who decide to travel during the approaching fall recess. 

“We’re just asking people to be cautious. Make sure you test if you’re traveling over midterm break — test before and test after,” Van Orman said. “We know that the community rates are much higher in certain parts of the country, and so also just being aware of what the [coronavirus] rates [are] where you’re going.” 

As coronavirus levels continue to stabilize throughout the campus community, Van Orman said Student Health is seeing other circulating respiratory illnesses. Among the infections reported include respiratory syncytial viruses, adenovirus and some cases of mono. 

“If you are actively ill with cold and flu symptoms, you should stay home,” Van Orman said. “You should get tested for COVID, and you can really prevent spreading that to someone else by staying home until your symptoms are improving.”

As of Oct. 5, Student Health has administered 2,000 flu shots and has seen zero confirmed cases of influenza — a trend Van Orman said she hopes to remain constant with flu vaccines now accessible for all students, faculty and staff. 

“We’ve been overwhelmed with [flu] vaccines … So, if you look at the schedule, it’s booked up until the end of October,” Van Orman said. “We’ll be opening more slots, but we’re also giving them at all the testing sites. We’re encouraging people to just walk up to the testing sites to get their flu shot [there].” 

All students, faculty and staff must submit proof of their flu vaccinations to the MySHR portal by Nov. 1.