USC wants to get people back on campus quickly, but only if it is as safe as possible, said Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Dean of the USC Keck School of Medicine, via Zoom Monday afternoon.

Dean Mosqueda hosted a virtual “Dean’s Community Corner” discussing COVID-19 and its impact on the USC community. Mosqueda first gave an overview of the coronavirus: the outbreak, the spread and the symptoms of the disease. She then spoke about “flattening of the curve” as well as methods for treatments and testing.

The presentation was followed by an online Q&A facilitated by Willow Bay, Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Annenberg Special Events Coordinator, Jasmine Mora.

The looming question on every student’s mind remains: When will students be able to return to campus?

While there is no date set in stone, the university is working with an “all hands on deck approach,” Mosqueda said. USC is using a number of milestones to assess when students can return to University Park. The milestones include adequate testing and space, as well as the availability of hand hygiene supplies.

“We want to get people back as quickly as possible, but only if it is as safe as possible,” said Mosqueda. “And I think that is outstanding leadership on the part of our president and provost emphasizing that to us.”

An important facet in returning to USC is the availability of testing, something Dr. Mosqueda likened to a printer functioning without a cartridge. “It’s been very frustrating for people like me, and frankly an embarrassment and a shame to our great country, that we don’t have all the testing kits available that we need,” said Mosqueda. “You have a brand new printer that looks beautiful, but without a cartridge it’s non-functional.”

She explained that USC testing centers — like many others in LA — continue to run out of components of the test kits, including swabs and reagents.

Luckily, Dr. Mosqueda reports an adequate supply of personal protective equipment at both the Keck Medical Center and throughout the county. “It is incredible to see how rapidly you can burn through this equipment if you are not vigilant about what you're doing,” Mosqueda said.

To prevent wasting testing material, she recommends students call their medical provider for guidance on the necessity of being tested.

“Don’t rush in if you think you have symptoms,” cautioned Mosqueda. She recommended that people first call their healthcare provider to determine if testing is necessary.

Testing is not the “end-all-be-all,” said Mosqueda, only a component of a multimodal approach. Other components may include the use of apps to do contact tracing, a hybrid learning (online and in-person) approach to avoid packed classrooms, as well as limits on the size of gatherings. The return is likely to happen in stages, but Dr. Mosqueda is optimistic about the timeline.

“It won’t be that long before we really start having a phased approach of getting people back on campus,” she said.