Student Health expects rise in cases during fall semester

Student Health expects rise in cases during fall semester
105 students tested positive for the coronavirus between June 12 and June 18, making the positivity rate 11.4%. (Sarah Cortina | Trojan daily file photo)

Senior Student Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said in a student briefing Monday that coronavirus prevention measures for the upcoming fall 2022 semester may include an authorization to use an indoor mask if the current rate of infection continues in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County confirmed more than 12,000 cases of the novel coronavirus over a three-day period between June 17 and June 20, indicating increased transmission in the area.

Between June 12 and June 18, 105 students tested positive, slightly lowering the positivity rate to 11.4% from the previous week — between June 5 and June 11 — when the positivity rate was 11.49%. The employee positivity rate has declined over the same period, dropping from 5.35% to 4.7%, with 22 positive test results recorded compared to the previous week of 27.

Van Orman said she expects to see an increase in coronavirus cases once students return to campus — with transfer dates for USC Housing classes beginning August 17 and fall 2022 beginning August 22 — because USC residents are made up of people coming from different regions.

“When people move…we see increases [in cases]Van Orman said. “At the beginning of every fall semester, every spring, after fall break and after spring break, we see a little bump in the cases.”

As of now, the university does not plan to order probation testing for returning students and faculty, Van Orman said.

USC Student Health will continue to offer off-campus accommodations to students with coronavirus who live in USC housing. Van Orman said testing sites will continue to operate on campus for the upcoming period. She said the university will decide which community safety measures to implement in fall 2022 in late July or early August, and assessments will depend on Los Angeles County and the nation’s guidance.

“COVID-19 is a very fluid situation,” Van Orman said. “We know there’s some concern that Los Angeles as a community might return to wearing indoor masks at the end of June or early July, and of course, we’ll follow up on what the rest of the county is doing.”

Van Ormann said reinstating the requirement for the daily Trojan check will only happen during a severe public health crisis, and is not currently being seriously considered in the fall.

“We want to be prepared if conditions require us to be tougher, but we think it’s unlikely,” Van Orman said. “if [the Trojan Check requirement was to be reinstated]maybe for a short period of time, just to make sure people complied with the tests they had when they came back.”

Through the Trojan Pandemic Research Initiative, more than 10,000 students, faculty, and staff have voluntarily reported their reviews of campus safety measures. Participants noted that completing Trojan horse screening, masking and testing helped contain the spread of the coronavirus on campus. Other data showed that participants felt the requirements were a “hassle,” Van Orman said.

Van Orman said one of the lessons the university has learned from dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is deciding on the right measures to implement and when to implement them. Van Orman said individuals tend to stop complying with health mandates if they feel the specific requirements are too excessive. She said mixed reviews of health measures must be balanced with the right decision being made from a public health point of view.

“For example, when we stopped the Trojan scan, it was like this [was] Van Orman said. “A lot of people are like, ‘Yeah, finally,’ but we also hear from a lot of insecure people who really want all of this stuff to continue.”

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