FAQ last updated September 1, 2021
Health and Positive Cases
1. What happens if a student in my class tests positive for COVID-19?
If an individual has been on campus during their infectious period (48 hours prior to onset of symptoms, or the test date, if the individual had no symptoms), close contacts who are identified during a case interview with a health provider will be notified by USC Student Health. Close contact is defined as having been within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or longer within a 24-hour period.
A student may reach out to you to let you know they cannot attend class due to symptoms or having a COVID-19 diagnosis (and therefore are required to isolate). Discuss their options for missing instruction.
If the student tested with USC Student Health, no notification to the university is required. If they have tested through an external resource, you may remind them they should report their positive result to the COVID hotline, 213-740-6291, or by email at email@example.com.
Continue to teach class unless notified by the university to switch to online instruction.
2. If a number of students in my class report that they have tested positive for COVID at the same time, should I cancel in person classes and teach online?
Each positive case is evaluated by Student Health and Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) for close contacts and to determine if there are any epidemiological linkages. Routine canceling or pivoting to online instruction is not required.
You will receive guidance from Student Health and EH&S if your class should switch to online. No changes should be made to in-person instruction until you are given direction to change.
3. Who will tell me if I need to cancel class and teach online?
You will receive guidance from Student Health and EH&S if your class should switch to online. No changes should be made to in-person instruction until you are given direction to change.
4. What should I do if I (an instructor) test positive for COVID?
Self-isolate, and follow instructions from your healthcare provider. Speak with your department or program head about making arrangements for your class. If you are asymptomatic, you can continue to teach online.
If you are symptomatic and unable to teach online, please discuss options with your department chair or program director. Further information and guidelines on self-isolation can be found on the USC COVID-19 website here: USC COVID-19 Resource Center’s Health & Safety FAQs.
If you tested with USC Student Health, no notification to the university is required. If you have tested through an external resource, please report your positive result to the COVID hotline, 213-740-6291, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. It has been stated that weekly testing will be required of all students who are on campus. Who will be tracking this? How will it be reported?
Weekly testing (for individuals who are required to test) is validated through Trojan Check. Currently, unvaccinated individuals with approved medical or religious exemptions are required to test weekly, as are USC students.
If an individual is required to test, but has not completed one, their Trojan Check will not be in compliance and they will not be permitted to access the campuses.
6. Are faculty and staff required to test weekly?
At this time, only unvaccinated individuals with approved medical or religious exemptions are required to test weekly. Fully vaccinated faculty and staff are not required to test at a regular cadence at this time.
7. Where can I get a COVID test if I want one?
COVID testing is available to students, faculty and staff without cost to them, and may be booked via USC Student Health’s MySHR Portal.
8. What should I do if someone in my class appears sick, but they still attend in person?
Students displaying symptoms of illness should not be in the classroom. Please send them home, assuring them that they will be provided with continuity of education, such as access to class notes, readings, lecture recordings, etc.
9. If a student tells me they are sick (COVID or otherwise), can I require any proof?
Given that the experience of symptoms may vary from individual to individual, we ask that faculty give students the benefit of the doubt in the interest of the overall health of the USC community. Student Health’s policy on medical verification is to direct students to self-verification. Students are able to print an “Absence Excuse” form for self-verification of an illness that can be used to begin a dialogue with you. This letter serves as verification that USC Student Health does not provide absence excuses. Do not ask for test results or other medical information, as this information is protected under patient privacy laws.
10. What do my students need to do if they believe they’ve been exposed?
Any USC student, faculty, or staff member who may have had an exposure should arrange to test for COVID-19. Appointments may be made through MySHR.
11. What information can I legally ask of my students related to their vaccination status? What are their rights I should respect?
Do not ask for vaccination status, test results or other medical information, as this information is protected under patient privacy laws.
As an alternative, you MAY ask for a valid Trojan Check display in an instructional or supervisory setting. When checking, please be mindful of equity issues and avoid singling individuals out.
Trojan Check verifies vaccine compliance, testing (if part of a required population) compliance, and online learning module (Hygiene Health and Safety) completion. If an individual is out of compliance with any of these requirements, their Trojan Check will show as out of compliance.
12. What should I tell students about coming to class if they feel sick?
If students are sick, they should not come to campus; if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, they should arrange to test through MySHR.
13. We are not supposed to go on campus if we have any cold and flu symptoms. If I don’t feel well, should I plan to teach remotely that day?
Do not come to campus if you are experiencing symptoms. You should teach remotely (assuming you feel well enough) and get tested for COVID.
14. Will masks and hand sanitizer dispensers be available in every building?
Hand sanitizers will be provided at many locations across campus and masks will also be provided in welcome kits.
15. Will I be able to view daily statistics/updates on COVID cases at USC?
This information is available via the USC COVID-19 Resource Center.
16. Do I need to install plexiglass barriers in offices and classrooms?
No, this is not necessary.
17. Is a student compliant with vaccine policy if they have only had one shot (of a 2-shot vaccine)?
Students are considered provisionally compliant with one shot, but will need to show proof of complete vaccination to remain so. Provisional compliance is valid for 6 weeks after a first dose, at which point their records revert to noncompliance.
18. How do I know if a student is compliant with USC’s vaccine policy?
Trojan Check verifies vaccine compliance, testing (if part of a required population) compliance, and online learning module (Hygiene Health and Safety) completion. If an individual is out of compliance on any of these requirements, their Trojan Check will show as out of compliance.
You MAY ask for a valid Trojan Check display in an instructional or supervisory setting. When checking, please be mindful of equity issues and avoid singling individuals out.
Note: USC students are required to be compliant with USC’s vaccine policy by 08/19/21 or face temporary suspension. All students in residence thereafter will be compliant with vaccine policy.
19. Will I be able to tell if a student in my class is unvaccinated?
No. However, every student will be masked and compliant with USC’s vaccine policy that requires them to be fully vaccinated; or have an approved medical or religious exemption with weekly testing.
20. What should I do if a student refuses to wear a mask in my class?
First ask the student to comply. If they do not, you should ask them to leave. Do not continue to teach with an unmasked student in the room as this exposes everyone present for the duration of the class. Refusal to comply with university masking policy is a disciplinary matter and should be referred to Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards (SJACS).
21. What should I do if the situation escalates, e.g. a student refuses to leave the room?
Refusal to comply in instances such as these constitutes disruptive behavior. Please follow the guidelines outlined in Student Judicial Affairs & Community Standards Disruptive Classroom Behavior policy.
22. What are instructor responsibilities in relation to enforcing masking compliance within the classroom?
All students will be aware of USC’s masking policy through multiple channels. Instructors can remind students that they expect all students to comply with policy for the good of all.
23. Who will be responsible for checking that my students have complied with Trojan Check?
Trojan Check will be checked at all access points to campus. For students who live on campus, USC Housing will require students to show their day pass to the secondary security checkpoint. It is the expectation that every student on campus and in class will be compliant with Trojan Check.
24. Am I allowed to check the Trojan Check status of the students in my classroom?
Yes, you may ask to see Trojan Check to ensure students are in compliance. When checking, please be mindful of equity issues and avoid singling individuals out.
25. Is eating or drinking allowed in class?
Eating in class is prohibited. Briefly drinking for hydration is okay, but immediate re-masking is required.
26. Are there any plans for P/NP grades or other grade accommodations this semester?
No, grading policies are returning to pre-pandemic status.
Teaching and Accommodations
27. Are there any physical distancing requirements on campus?
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has rolled back requirements for physical distancing. Physical distancing can reduce risk of transmission, so it is encouraged when possible. Face coverings (indoor masks) are currently required by LA County and the university.
When eating or drinking and masks are removed, this presents a higher risk of exposure between people. Please sit at a distance of 6 feet (or greater, 8-10 feet), outdoors if possible, or alone in your office.
28. What happens to my class if I (the instructor) test positive for COVID?
Let your department or program head know so that alternative arrangements can be made for your class. However, if you are not experiencing symptoms or quarantine is a precaution in response to exposure, you can talk to your department head about the possibility of teaching remotely during your quarantine period. Preparing for this possibility as well as that of students having to quarantine will be important so that faculty can quickly pivot to providing materials or instruction online, if needed. Please note that, unless otherwise requested by the school, Zoom links will be automatically generated in Blackboard for all classes. You can use these in the event you need to teach online.
29. Can I decide to teach online if I prefer to?
No. The vast majority of fall classes will be taught in person. To change the modality of your class, you may either submit a request to your school’s curriculum committee providing a pedagogical rationale or, if you seek a medical accommodation, reach out to your HR partner or dean of faculty, who will work with the Office of Institutional Accessibility and ADA Compliance (OIA) as appropriate. Instructors teaching graduate courses should consult with their school or program.
30. I have a medical condition that makes me vulnerable to COVID. How do I apply for an accommodation to teach online?
Reach out to your HR partner or dean of faculty, who will work with OIA as appropriate.
31. I share a household with people who are vulnerable to COVID. Am I eligible for an accommodation to teach online?
Accommodations are offered only on behalf of USC employees themselves.
32. For students who are self-isolating, what am I expected to provide to students, in terms of keeping up with the class?
The health of the USC community is of paramount importance, as is ensuring that students make progress toward their degrees. Please make every effort to provide self-isolating students with continuity of education. Be flexible in supporting them, and make sure that they have access to the course materials they need to complete course requirements. Faculty have many options available to them, although the most accessible strategy is to make course materials, lecture notes, readings, assignments, recordings, etc. available through Blackboard or other learning management systems. Faculty should provide extensions on course requirements should students become too unwell or self-isolation prevents them from completing assignments on time. Please note that, unless otherwise requested by the school, Zoom links will be automatically generated in Blackboard for all classes. Zoom is not required for in-person classes, but the links have been pre-generated as a resource in the event that you wish to stream or record your class for absent students.
33. Should I record my classes?
Zoom links will be automatically generated in Blackboard for all classes. You do not need to use these for in-person classes when all students are in attendance, but they are there as a resource in the event you wish to stream or record your class for absent students.
34. Am I required to accommodate students who request remote learning options irrespective of their COVID status?
No. While instructors may provide remote, hybrid or streaming options for their classes at their own discretion, they are not required to accommodate any student unless he/she/they has a written accommodation request from the Office of Student Accessibility Services (OSAS). OSAS will work with faculty to determine the viability of offering online accommodations and not assume this is an option in all instances. For more information, please contact the Office of Student Accessibility Services.
35. Am I required to provide remote learning options for international students who are unable to come to campus due to visa delays or travel restrictions?
No. Several schools have made provisions for international students who are unable to come to campus in time for the start of the semester, and while individual instructors may choose to stream, record or otherwise make their class available for off-campus students at their own discretion, they are not required to do so.
36. May I hold office hours in my office?
Yes, you may, as long as you follow indoor masking protocols.
37. How can I tell if the building I work and/or teach in meets air quality standards?
Check the USC Environmental Health and Safety Building Readiness Dashboard. Since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in March 2020, the university has remained in step with guidance from the CDC, local, State, and City authorities. Reputable organizations such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have also provided parameters and guidelines related to air and water distribution systems within our built environment.
38. Am I required to teach in a mask?
Yes. As per LADPH guidelines, everybody must be masked indoors, including instructors.
39. Can I teach in a clear mask?
Yes. Faculty who are informed by OSAS that a student who is deaf/hard of hearing is enrolled in their class should contact their department to gain access to clear masks for courses in which the student is enrolled.
40. Can I wear a face shield with a drape instead of a mask?
No. This is only permitted for faculty with medical accommodations.
41. Given that I am required to teach in a mask, will the university provide microphones to ensure I am heard?
Many classrooms are already equipped with a microphone at the podium. If not, please discuss options with your school’s technology services staff.
42. Can I teach behind a tall plexiglass table barrier instead of wearing a mask?
43. Can I request masking exemptions for certain activities such as performing arts?
Please check with your school or unit.
44. What should I do if faculty or staff refuse to wear a mask in spaces where masks are required? To whom should this be reported?
Faculty and staff are required to follow USC’s masking policy for the benefit of all. Seek to resolve the situation in a collegial manner, and/or consult the appropriate department head and/or HR Partner.
45. Are guests allowed on campus, such as guest speakers? If so, what is the protocol?
Yes, they should use the “visitor” option of USC Trojan Check.
46. What resources can help me navigate the grief my students (and colleagues) are still processing, the traumas they are still carrying, and the challenges they still face in their personal (and professional) lives?
Checking in with your students can help them feel seen and cared for. This resource, Student Care and Support: 5 Things Faculty Should Know, provides strategies for reaching out and a list of resources you can get consultations on how to help a student in distress.
Mental health programs for faculty and staff are available through the Center for Work and Family Life, and the Care for the Caregiver program is available to the health care workforce of Keck Medicine of USC.
Student Health also has guidance for discussing resilience through challenges in the classroom, and understanding grief and loss.
47. The vaccination issue has been made political. Do you have resources or language to help me handle the inevitable classroom discussions?
See “Vaccination Mandates: The Public Health Imperative and Individual Rights” by Kevin M. Malone and Alan R. Hinman, which offers an excellent overview of the balance between protecting public health and rights to individual autonomy, from a legal and historical perspective. This chapter is excerpted from Law and Public Health Practice (Goodman, Richard A. et al, Oxford University Press, 2007.) The full volume is available for digital download through the USC Libraries.
Additionally, it may help to frame a discussion to address how the pandemic has affected college students. Both international data reports on impacts to young adults and USC-specific data on mental health impacts and thoughts on returning to campus can provide springboards for respectful dialogue. This can serve both as an acknowledgment of students’ experiences and concerns, and an opportunity for empathic engagement.