USC Health officials warn students to exercise caution over Labor Day weekend

Although data shows cases in California are decreasing, USC Health officials are concerned Labor Day weekend gatherings may aggravate COVID-19 cases.

USC Student Health officials raised concerns on Thursday about COVID-19 transmission over the Labor Day weekend, advising students to avoid gatherings in order to minimize the risk of infection.

In an email sent to the USC community Thursday afternoon, Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman provided some guidelines for activities during the holiday weekend. Suggestions included engaging in distanced outdoor activities, refraining from unnecessary travel and continuing to practice social distancing measures. Van Orman’s guidance echoed that of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“Data shows that gatherings over Memorial Day weekend contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases,” Garcetti warned over Twitter on Sept. 3. “We can’t let that happen this weekend. We need to keep L.A. safe this Labor Day weekend by not attending parties or gathering in groups.”

According to the USC Fall 2020 information website’s testing data page, as of Aug. 29, 27.5% of tested students who were exposed or symptomatic received positive results.

Warnings from USC officials and lawmakers come as California’s cases are decreasing, according to Johns Hopkins University data. However, that’s no reason to begin ignoring health guidelines, officials said.

“We continue to see declines -- but our progress depends on your actions,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Sept. 4. “WEAR YOUR MASK.”

USC has been offering testing for those who are symptomatic or have been exposed to COVID-19. USC also offers surveillance testing for asymptomatic individuals, known as population or Pop Testing, provided through the Color company.

According to an interview with Van Orman, roughly 600 tests are being conducted every day. If a student tests positive for the virus, a member of the contact tracing team at USC Student Health will help the student trace their close contacts from 48 hours before their symptoms began. These contacts will be alerted to the potential exposure through confidential calls, without sharing the identity of the student who tested positive.