USC confirms 43 COVID-19 cases in off-campus housing, 100 students quarantined

USC health officials announced Monday an "alarming" spike of 43 coronavirus cases in off-campus housing facilities, along with 100 students in quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Just one week into the fall semester, and with most classes online, USC health officials announced Monday an "alarming" spike of 43 coronavirus cases in off-campus housing facilities, along with 100 students in quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19.

According to Dr. Sarah Van Orman, head of USC Student Health, 14 cases were identified through general population testing among students not showing any symptoms, while 29 more were confirmed through contact tracing and testing of people showing symptoms or who were exposed to the illness.

"Los Angeles is at a critical juncture in public health,'' Orman wrote in a Monday virus update. "While no students have been hospitalized to this point, we all need to work together to protect those in our community who may be at higher risk of severe disease and prevent serious health outcomes for all. Your role in containing, or conversely, accelerating the rapid spread of COVID-19, can mean the difference between safely returning to a modified new normal, or having a prolonged period of remote-only academic experience and closed facilities.''

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She urged students "in the vicinity of USC, especially those living with housemates or suite-mates,'' to get tested weekly through the university's "Pop Testing'' program. Orman also noted that the spike in cases occurred despite restrictions on on-campus instruction and activities.

"It appears highly unlikely current conditions will significantly change in the weeks ahead,'' Orman said. "The county may grant a small number of exceptions for specific classes and other activities that cannot be delivered in a virtual setting, however, those decisions have not yet been made. Therefore, we continue to strongly discourage students from returning to the campus area until further notice.

USC officials have also warned students that parties and gatherings are banned, and hosting or attending one could lead to disciplinary action.

"... For students who remain on or near campus in shared living arrangements, we strongly advise you to act with caution and strictly follow all guidelines for physical distancing -- six (feet) -- avoiding gatherings with other(s) outside your home, wearing face coverings around others to protect against respiratory droplets, and proceed with high adherence to hand hygiene and frequent surface contact cleaning.''

But some students say they are still seeing their classmates participate in parties and gatherings.

"You can hear it, as you drive around to off-campus housing," said student Ethan Gabon. "People are throwing parties, loud music. A lot of voices coming from the rooms."

It's concerning, he says, because a lack of precautions about the virus will further push back the chance to resume in-person classes.

"I'm just hoping students come to their senses," he said.

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City News Service contributed to this report.
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