USC’s testing availability for COVID-19 will now be given to “people who have symptoms," regardless of their travel history or exposure risk, USC Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman announced in a press meeting via Zoom Monday noon.
Previously, USC’s testing capacity for COVID-19 was limited and reserved for “symptomatic persons returning from high risk travel locations (CDC Level 3) and severely ill hospitalized patients who have had recent travel to CDC Level 3 and 2 countries,” according to an update on USC’s coronavirus information website on March 11.
Van Orman told Annenberg Media on March 10 that “additional testing capacity is being developed throughout Keck Medicine, but it is still limited. This will change and evolve over the next few days and weeks as testing becomes more available and community transmission common.”
In the Monday press meeting around noon, Annenberg Media asked Van Orman whether the COVID-19 testing at USC would still be reserved only for people who have risk and are showing symptoms. "No, at this point, it’s [for] people who have symptoms. That actually just happened over the last 24 hours as our capacity is increasing,” she answered via Zoom.
The test will only be given to people who show symptoms because the testing kit is not sensitive to pick up results from asymptomatic people, Van Orman adds.
“We will do that as long as we have the capacity,” she said.
COVID-19 testing will become “more widely available” and “very common” over the next few weeks, according to Van Orman’s Sunday email and the Medical FAQs on COVID-19 Cases and Exposures page on USC’s coronavirus information website.
People who are recommended to be tested for COVID-19 are expected to practice strict self-isolation-including staying home ideally in a separate room and practicing self-isolation- until their results are available. Van Orman said the university will provide hotel for students who are being tested.
For COVID-19, there is no cost for testing, which is a public health measure, according to an email response from Minne Ho, the executive director of communication and marketing at USC Student Health. The care students are receiving at USC Student Health is funded as part of the student fee, so there is no cost.
“The majority of cases, particularly for young people and people without underlying health conditions, will be mild and not require more than self-isolation and monitoring by a provider. There is no prescriptive treatment at this time,” Ho wrote. “For people who experience severe symptoms and require hospitalization, hospital care would be covered by insurance.”
USC is asking people who have respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough, congestion and sore throat, “do not go directly to an urgent care or emergency department” unless they are experiencing severe, life threatening symptoms, according to its website. They should stay home and call or TeleHealth their health care provider.
USC Student Health notified all students via email on Saturday that they are remaining operational and also launching TeleHealth as a measure of providing care during the remote instruction period. “No in-person respiratory visits will be permitted without first completing a phone/TeleHealth consultation,” the email said.
The press meeting was held after USC announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Sunday. The patient is a USC undergraduate student who recently returned from international travel and arrived directly in Orange County.
Van Orman specified that the patient, who is not named in the email, has not been on or near campuses, and that the person is in good condition and currently in self-isolation at home.
In the Zoom press meeting on March 16, Van Orman declined to share more information about the patient and the testing timeline. She said for this case, the individual went directly to Orange County, developed symptoms and received a diagnosis, and then the result was shared with USC.