This page was last updated September 23, 2022.
You can find more information on USC’s COVID-19 policies and practices, including the latest announcements, useful data, and best practices, at USC’s COVID-19 Resource Center. You can schedule a COVID-19 test, see your results, or report a positive case through MySHR.
Please be aware that there could be fluctuations over the course of the semester. Depending on guidance from the L.A. Department of Public Health, it is possible that an increase in positive cases may mean there are times in the semester where an indoor mask requirement, or other guidelines, may be reinstated. We will always align with guidance from county health officials. At the moment, indoor masking is required in some settings including health care, during outbreaks and after exposures. It is strongly recommended in other indoor settings. Voluntary masking is fully supported.
- September 23, 2022 update: As the COVID-19 case rate in Los Angeles County has dropped in community-level transmission, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has revised guidelines on mask requirements and recommendations. Read more at the COVID-19 Resource Center.
Please continue to expect the need to be flexible. Faculty and staff colleagues may need support as they isolate and/or take time off to recover from illness. Please be ready to support your students’ academic continuity through any means you deem appropriate (detailed in #4 below). For best guidance on graduate programs, first check with your school or department.
In Fall 2022, we will welcome over 12,000 students who will be coming to USC for the first time (including freshman, transfers, and graduate students) as well as new faculty and staff colleagues, so let’s help them as they learn the ways we support each other.
If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your department, your school, or our office. We will continue to work toward conditions on both campuses in which we can teach, research, work, study, and live our lives.
Health, Teaching, and Positive COVID-19 Cases
1. What is the process for positive cases?
When positive results are either 1) provided to individuals who have tested through USC Student Health or 2) a student or employee notifies Student Health that they have tested positive outside USC, those individuals are advised to notify their personal close contacts, and to complete the contact tracing form in MySHR.
The contact tracing form contains information for positive students to obtain isolation accommodations through the university, and fields to enter email addresses for known close contacts during their infectious period.
2. What happens if a student in my class tests positive for COVID-19?
Current public health guidance is that a full isolation period is 10 days, with a minimum of 5 days. Isolation means you cannot leave your residence (or have guests at your residence) except to seek medical care. For full details, see USC Student Health’s Instructions for Positive Test Results.
A student may reach out to you to let you know they cannot attend class due to symptoms or a COVID-19 diagnosis requiring isolation. 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 by completing the contact tracing form in MySHR.
3. If a number of students in my class report that they have tested positive for COVID-19 at the same time, should I cancel in-person classes and teach online?
While in-person classes are the default mode, faculty should use their discretion, depending on the impacts of illness in any given week.
Zoom links will be automatically generated for each class session to facilitate accommodations and temporary pivots if needed.
4. What am I expected to provide to students who are self-isolating, 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, or to support students with approved accommodations.
5. 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 here: USC COVID-19 Resource Center’s Health & Safety FAQs. Further information on diagnosis and recovery can be found here: Post-COVID-19 Diagnosis and Recovery.
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 by completing the contact tracing form in MySHR.
6. Where can I get a COVID test if I want one?
COVID testing is available to students, faculty, and staff at no cost, and may be booked via USC Student Health’s MySHR Portal.
Please note that nasal swab testing is no longer available through the Pop Testing program. Now, saliva-based PCR tests will be the primary collection method used on-campus for students, staff, and faculty.
You can pick up a take-home saliva collection kit from one of the campus testing locations (Jefferson Lot at UPC, Pappas Quad at HSC) and schedule a drop off of your sample through MySHR.
For further details, see the July 13, 2022 Health Advisory.
Home antigen kits are available at no costs to users, through federal government programs; they are also a covered pharmacy benefit through all health insurance carriers (8 kits per month, per person). Antigen kits are best used to confirm a positive diagnosis if you are symptomatic. PCR tests are more sensitive to viral particles and are therefore the preferred standard for confirming negative status for COVID-19.
7. Are faculty and staff required to test weekly?
Surveillance testing is not required at this time. Testing is recommended prior to (1-2 days) and after (3-5 days) traveling or attending gatherings, after a potential exposure, or if experiencing symptoms.
8. 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.
9. 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. More details on exposure can be found here: Instructions: Exposure to a positive individual.
10. What information can I legally ask of my students related to their vaccination or booster status?
Do not ask for vaccination or booster status, test results or other medical information, as this information is protected under patient privacy laws.
11. What should I do if someone in my class appears sick, but they still attend in person? What should I tell students about coming to class if they feel sick?
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.
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.
12. 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.
13. How can I view daily updates on COVID cases at USC?
All currently enrolled students and all university employees receive a daily email message with an update on reported cases. The message contains a link to the daily report of cases, and instructions for individuals who believe that they have been in close contact with a positive individual. You can learn more at COVID-19 Campus Notifications.
14. Are there any plans to adjust the Fall 2022 Academic Calendar for registration deadlines like Pass/No Pass and Withdrawal decisions?
No. Please see the current Academic Calendar here.
15. What is the Withdrawal deadline for Fall 2022?
The deadline to withdraw from a class is Friday, November 11, 2022. This is the last opportunity for students to withdraw from a course to avoid getting a final grade. Please note that November 11 is also Veterans Day, which is a non-instructional day at USC.
16. 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 the student 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 OSAS.
17. Can I decide to teach online if I prefer to?
No, although some temporary changes in modality may be required if your class is significantly affected by illness (see #3, above).
To request a change in the modality of your class for the entirety of the semester, 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 as appropriate. Instructors teaching graduate courses should consult with their school or program.
18. 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 of faculty, who will work with the Office of Institutional Accessibility and ADA Compliance as appropriate.
19. 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 March 2020, when initial COVID-19 restrictions went into effect, the university has remained in step with guidance from the CDC, local, state, and city authorities.
When a building is listed as “ready,” it meets or exceeds the minimum required air change rate guidelines, outside air and ventilation guidelines, air filtration guidelines, water flushing guidelines, and cleaning guidelines (for the university), based on the space and usage. You may reach out to USC Environmental Health and Safety (email@example.com) if you have further questions about air quality in your location.
20. Is a student compliant with USC’s vaccine policy if they have not yet been boosted?
As of December 2021, all USC students, faculty, and staff are required to receive a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible to complete the vaccine requirements. Timeframes and other details are available in the December 28, 2021 memo, “Spring 2022 COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols.”
21. How do I know if a student is compliant with USC’s vaccine policy?
All incoming students and new faculty and staff are required to complete vaccination for COVID-19; this includes a complete primary series and a booster when eligible.
Students who are out of compliance with immunizations requirements, including COVID-19 vaccination and booster requirements, are sent reminders and may encounter registration holds, fines, and other enforcement measures if they continue to be out of compliance with university requirements.
22. How else can I support my students?
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 USC WorkWell Center, 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.
For any questions on this FAQ, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.