As students prepare to head home for Thanksgiving break, USC experts are wary of a surge in COVID-19 cases and encourage students to get tested before they leave and after they return.
USC sent out an email blast on Nov. 18 ahead of the upcoming break advising students to stay up to date on their booster shots, to get tested for COVID-19 and to follow general CDC guidelines for the holidays, such as wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and avoiding crowded gatherings.
Many students will be surrounded by an abundance of family members and friends this upcoming week, which means they will not only risk exposure at home but also exposure to the USC community upon their return.
“I think that it is a little concerning since everyone’s going to different parts of the country and we’re all reconvening here all at once,” said Claire Ziperski, a sophomore who is traveling home for Thanksgiving and is nervous about student’s return to campus, “But hopefully everyone can get tested or do their best to make sure that our community stays safe when we come back.”
Dr. Van Orman, Chief Health Officer of USC Student Health, has strongly advised students to test 48 hours before and after traveling and to monitor symptoms, “and then just being cautious with your social activities, especially over that Thanksgiving weekend. We know that the last thing [students] want is to have COVID over their finals period.”
The current testing policy requires students and faculty to be tested once a week, but many students will be gone for more than a week and are concerned about having access to campus via their Trojan Check for class on Monday, Nov. 29. “Students should arrange to test on the first day they are back from the Thanksgiving break. By making and keeping that appointment in MySHR, students will be compliant in Trojan Check,” said Dr. Van Orman.
USC currently reports a 0.2% test positivity rate among both its students and employees. The university has conducted 30,904 tests this week and nearly half a million since the start of July.
Dr. Edith Mirzaian, Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy and Assistant Dean of Curriculum at USC is an expert in immunizations, travel health and medicine. Mirzaian suggested all students do their part by getting tested, both before they leave and after they arrive.
“If you’re available earlier and you go in and you just show your QR code, they’ll [still] take you,” Mirzaian said. “So there is a level of flexibility built in around that to help improve access to students and faculty and staff for testing.”
Testing will provide students with a “baseline,” according to Mirzaian. This means that if a student obtains a negative result before they go home, and test positive upon their return, they will have at least some idea of who they were in contact with and how to proceed with notifying their friends and relatives.
Isabella Colik is a senior flying back home to Texas over break and supports the notion that all students be tested before returning back to campus to prevent any mass spreading. Senior Stanley Chang, majoring in human biology, plans to “take precautions by wearing masks, ensuring the group has been vaccinated, staying away from large crowds, and properly washing hands,” in order to keep his peers safe upon his arrival back to campus.
Around two million people are expected to travel through LAX this year for Thanksgiving, which is the busiest season of travel since the beginning of the pandemic, according to an article published by the Los Angeles Times.