Student Health hours puzzle USC students

In speaking with students on their experiences in coronavirus isolation during the fall semester, the Daily Trojan followed a common thread: students allege that parts of USC Student Health and USC Hospitality seem to be closed overnight and on the weekends, even to coronavirus matters. 

After testing positive for the coronavirus on the first day of classes this semester, Vaughn Hays, a freshman majoring in applied and computational mathematics, was directed to isolate at a hotel until he either tested negative on day six or had been in isolation for 10 days, as per protocol. However, he was unable to conduct that day six test. 

“My ‘day six’ that I’m supposed to be tested on would actually be either Saturday or Sunday, depending on when you count my first day of symptoms,” Hays said. “So I asked about scheduling the test and they say, ‘Oh, we’re closed on weekends.’ So they just don’t give people an opportunity to test on the weekends and come home, which is really insane to me.” 

If someone’s “day six” falls on a Friday, Hays said, and there’s no appointment availability that day, they’d be staying in isolation an additional three days. 

While he said he appreciated the ability to stay in a nice hotel, Hays found the apparent weekend closure to be puzzling.

“It’s just totally unreal,” he said. 

Lindsey Le, a freshman majoring in business administration, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, Aug. 26. When she tried to get a room at a hotel with USC, she, too, found that certain University services were not available over the weekend. 

“It took the whole weekend for [USC Hospitality] to respond, so I had to isolate myself in the dorm,” Le said. “I live in an apartment with three other people, so I had to just stay in the living room and be very cautious of myself because I did not want to spread it to them.” 

This did not sit well with Le, as the fact that she had to wait for a hotel room in her apartment meant that more people could have been exposed. 

“[It was] like COVID didn’t exist over the weekend,” Le said. “It just didn’t feel super professional.”

Ian Wisecarver, a freshman majoring in aerospace engineering, said his roommate experienced the same situation as Le. When his roommate tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, USC Hospitality did not move him into isolation until the school week had restarted. Like Le, Wisecarver thinks Hospitality simply did not respond to the isolation request during the weekend. 

“It was a Saturday and a Sunday that he ended up spending locked in his room because they could not move him to isolation until Monday. Or … they, at least, chose not to,” Wisecarver said. 

Wisecarver remembers having to bring food to his roommate from the dining hall because he was unable to leave the dorm without exposing other students to the virus. 

Wisecarver also said that he experienced an inability to schedule appointments on MySHR — the online student health portal — on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Carissa Liu, a sophomore majoring in public relations, experienced a slightly different, yet similar, issue to what Hays and Le went through. When Liu tested positive, she first tried calling the USC Student Health Hotline, but it was after hours and the only service available was for mental health. She then emailed the University’s coronavirus email and filled out the contact tracing forms, but had to wait to request a hotel room because the form wasn’t open at the time. 

“That form is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.… It was after 9 p.m., so I waited till the next morning to do it,” Liu said. “That’s probably one of my biggest gripes with [USC’s coronavirus procedures], is if you test [positive] at night, you don’t want to stay in your room because you know you’re positive already.”

Chief Student Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said Student Health is open on Saturdays and offers telemedicine services on both days of the weekend. She said she hadn’t heard about students’ difficulties moving into hotel rooms over the weekend. 

“I really am not aware of that,” Van Orman said. “That should not be the case. As I mentioned, we do not oversee the isolation housing … when you test positive and you let us know you test positive, we provide you information with where to request a room, and there should not be any delays.”

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, Vice President of USC Auxiliary Services Dan Stimmler wrote about the University’s coronavirus procedures. 

“For the past three years, the University has had COVID-19 procedures that include isolation and quarantine accommodations, working with locations across the Los Angeles area,” Stimmler wrote. “The process is led by an isolation team that works seven days a week, including holidays, to ensure that our students’ needs are met.” 

USC Auxiliary Services is the University arm responsible for USC Hospitality, including isolation services. Stimmler did not address students’ experienced inability to obtain isolation housing over the weekends.