USC students reflect on changing COVID-19 guidelines

Despite the CDC loosening restrictions for vaccinated individuals, USC’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman says Trojan Check will remain in place.

The CDC loosened COVID-19 gathering restrictions on March 8, allowing those with full vaccinations to gather in small groups. As a result, many USC students were left wondering how soon they will be able to return to some sense of normalcy once they are fully vaccinated.

According to CDC guidance, those who are fully vaccinated will be able to have small gatherings with others who are also fully vaccinated. However, those who get the vaccine are not considered to be fully vaccinated until two weeks after they receive their second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine or two weeks after their individual dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Currently, the university maintains strict COVID-19 regulations in order to prevent further spread of the virus. USC housing has banned gatherings of any kind and prohibited guests from entering student dormitories. Students also must use the Trojan Check app or website, which requires those entering campus to complete a Health, Hygiene and Safety training, receive the flu shot, have two COVID-19 tests per week and answer a symptoms questionnaire.

Some students qualify to receive the vaccine in the current 1A and 1B phases as workers in childcare, food service, healthcare, education and other essential jobs.

Alyssa Matias, a sophomore USC student studying political science, said she has already been vaccinated and believes that even students who are vaccinated should be subject to COVID-19 restrictions on campus.

“I think that vaccinated students on campus should still be required to do all of the same social distance protocols and mask-wearing because it’s not until we have herd immunity that things are really going to change,” Matias said.

Now that she is vaccinated, Matias said she is excited to be able to visit her grandparents without putting them at risk. However, she said she will still maintain strict personal precautions in her day-to-day life, such as wearing two masks at a time.

USC Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman hopes that other students will follow the same precautions as Matias.

“As long as you’re feeling well, you can start to have those small personal gatherings,” said Van Orman in a briefing on March 11. “People do need to be cautious and recognize that it’s going to be a while before large groups of people are vaccinated. But we think that some semblance of normal life will come back when everybody’s vaccinated.”

Lingaire Ofosuhene, a sophomore double majoring in international relations and narrative studies, is living on-campus and intends to get vaccinated. She believes that students who have been vaccinated should no longer be subject to USC’s mandatory testing to access campus and that the tests can be saved for others.

Ofosuhene said she remains hopeful that in the fall, whether or not the campus reopens for in-person classes, students who decide to come back to Los Angeles will be able to interact with each other in person. But for now, once vaccinated, Ofosuhene said she plans to remain in quarantine and will maintain current safety precautions.

Van Orman acknowledged that while being vaccinated significantly reduces your risk of being severely ill, the vaccine is not 100% effective. She believes it is still important for students and employees to get tested twice a week.

“We don’t know whether testing is going to be required in the fall or not. It’s really going to depend on vaccine prevalence, as well as community prevalence. What you’re required to do for Trojan Check may change,” said Van Orman, adding that the flu vaccine requirement may change in the coming months.

Per county health officials’ regulations, USC is required to control student access to campus. Due to contact tracing and ongoing outbreaks, it is likely that students will have to continue using Trojan Check in the fall semester to enter classrooms or attend events.

Van Orman noted the importance of using mental health services and suggested putting a hold on traveling and large gatherings, saying that taking precautions will help things to “get back to normal.”

“We want to do it for academic reasons. But we also primarily want to do it to help people start to get better... address what we know are the real emotional challenges of this,” said Van Orman. “So get your vaccine. Stay home until you can.”

The story was updated at 5:00 p.m. on March 11 with a more accurate representation of Lingaire Ofosuhene’s opinion and included her second major.