Message to the USC Community
From: Sarah Van Orman, M.D., MMM, FACHA; Chief Health Officer for USC Student Health, Keck Medicine of USC
It has been one week since we wrote to the community to notify you of the first cases of COVID-19 related to the USC community. In this brief time period, the Los Angeles region, and the state of California, reached significant milestones in the measures to mitigate the ongoing spread of this disease.
On March 16, 2020, USC Student Health began testing; similar to the ramp up of testing centers and lab processing facilities throughout Los Angeles County.
With the increase in testing across the country, we can expect many positive test results in addition to the positive case identified last week, or presumptive positive cases. In addition, many individuals locally are being advised self-isolation and may not have access to testing. All of the presumed positive cases of USC students, at this point in time, are related to return from international travel. We know, however, that community spread is increasing. The ongoing measures for social distancing announced through the L.A. County Department of Public Health will help slow further spread in the regional community, and our campus community.
The following process is currently in place for notification of close contacts of known cases:
Positive tests: For students/faculty/staff who test positive, Student Health will work with the individual to contact locations and persons in the USC community who may have had an exposure. Student patients will receive check-ins and care by USC Student Health; faculty and staff check-ins will be coordinated through their departments; care will be through their current providers.
Notifications: Individuals who may have had exposures will be contacted and given guidance on current recommendations (self-monitoring or self-isolation); the current period for surveillance of symptoms is 14 days. USC campus locations that are evaluated as a risk for contact exposure (by Environmental Health and Safety) will be closed for extensive cleaning and re-opened at a later time, in coordination with the facility manager.
Public locations: If those locations are USC facilities that are accessible to the public, a broader communication with public health guidance will be issued to the community.
Over the past weeks dozens of individuals were tested at USC and elsewhere, and as the availability of testing increases, we can expect this number to go into the hundreds. Some of those tests will be positive, and we will provide guidance and care for our community through this changing pandemic landscape. Notifications will be targeted to individuals and groups that may need to alter their daily arrangements in order to care for their health; or take additional preventative measures to protect the health of others.
USC advises persons who may have concerns, questions, or are notifying the university about a positive test, to call the COVID-19 Hotline: 213-740-6291. Additional answers to questions on what to do next are available on the COVID-19 website.
We recognize this is a time of extraordinary change and uncertainty, and we will provide updated guidance as quickly as possible to keep us safer and healthier as a community.