Quarantine with a view: USC students stay at luxury hotels

USC is better prepared for COVID-19 at this stage of the pandemic with more than 600 hotel spaces to safely isolate — but with varying levels of extravagance.

Photograph of the DoubleTree by Hilton.

In a viral TikTok video, Kathy Tsuar showcased the ritzy room she was staying in at the Level Los Angeles Hotel last week after she tested positive for COVID-19. Her video, which reached more than 400,000 people in 10 days, included scenic views from her hotel room and food that she ordered using her daily $70 DoorDash credit provided by the university.

Tsuar is a junior majoring in communication. Soon after the video went viral, the comment section was flooded with students wishing their universities provided these amenities when they had to quarantine. Some USC students even commented that they wanted to contract the virus in order to stay at the hotel.

“I got a lot of comments saying this was such a USC thing, you know, [the] University of Spoiled Children,” Tsuar said. “I did see it as a mini-vacation in a sense — because free food and free hotel room — but at the end of the day we’re just quarantining and trying to keep our roommates and everyone safe.”

When asked if this quarantine lifestyle could be considered problematic, Tsuar said that it certainly could be, especially when students joked about contracting COVID-19 just to avail the luxurious amenities.


i ordered perch with my $70 doordash credit, ty usc #uschotel #usc #quarantine

♬ Breakin my heart - speedaudiios_

USC’s Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman said in a media briefing Tuesday that the university has more than 600 hotel spaces available for students to safely isolate away from roommates and peers. Students are staying in a variety of hotels located near Downtown LA and surrounding areas including, but not limited to: the USC Hotel, Level Los Angeles Hotel, Hyatt House LA - University Medical Center and Doubletree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown. Tsuar said she did not get to choose which hotel she would have to isolate in.

USC Auxiliary Services said in a statement that several departments work together to make sure students have accommodations for quarantine and if students can safely isolate in their current living space, they have the option to do so. Students who opt to stay in USC-sponsored spaces can “contact USC Student Health for medical needs or the USC Self Isolation Coordination Team for other issues.”

Charlotte Kroll, a freshman majoring in electrical and computer engineering, said her stay at the Hyatt House Hotel was similar to Tsaur’s. Kroll was provided a daily $70 DoorDash credit as well, and the amenities in her hotel room also included a small kitchen with a refrigerator and dishwasher.

She expressed her overall satisfaction with the university’s provisions for students infected with the virus, saying they do attend to students’ needs.

She only had one complaint: long wait times to receive test results.

“I tested as part of the weekly testing,” Kroll said. “I didn’t test because I had symptoms, so I may have exposed people in the 48 hours where I didn’t know that I had COVID.” However, Kroll added that her entire check-in process to the hotel was contactless and did not require her to have a face-to-face interaction with anyone.

While Kroll drove herself to the hotel, students who did not have cars had to arrange transportation at their own expense. Clara Carrasco, a sophomore majoring in law, history and culture, stayed at the Level Los Angeles and said she paid nearly $20 for Uber rides to and from the hotel.

Lindsay Huerta, a sophomore psychology student, also said she spent her own money on a Lyft to Doubletree Hilton, where she was to isolate. Since she didn’t have a car, she had to pay for her own rideshare service to the hotel in Downtown LA.

“It’s kind of messed up that USC makes us take Ubers and Lyfts to the hotels, therefore willingly exposing rideshare drivers … to COVID,” Huetra said.

USC Auxiliary Services stated that “if students do isolate at one of the isolation spaces, they work with the university’s isolation team to coordinate transportation and other details,” but the extent of help students get with conveyance remained unclear.

Aaron Wong, a junior majoring in computer science and business administration, stayed at the USC Hotel — the only USC-sponsored isolation space just steps away from campus. While he lives off-campus, he decided to request a space at the hotel so he wouldn’t expose his roommate to the virus.

When he tested positive for COVID-19, he filled out a contact tracing form through a link on his USC MySHR portal, just like all other students who test positive. On the form, he requested an isolation space at the hotel and was sent information about his stay promptly. Wong walked a short distance from his off-campus apartment to the USC Hotel. When asked about his amenities, Wong listed off basic hotel amenities provided to him: internet access, a television screen, complimentary water bottles, etc. However, he noted that he did not receive DoorDash credits.

“When you stay at the USC Hotel, you don’t get $70 DoorDash, you get $70 for room service … you order it over the phone and they make the food and they bring it outside your door,” he said.

USC’s statement matched students’ experiences. The statement read, “students in isolation at one of our locations are provided with either DoorDash credit for their stay or a customized menu with meal options, depending on the location. As situations change, this process may change as well.” Since the USC Hotel is owned and operated by the university, food is arranged on the premises.

The Student Health Center instructed students on what to do during their stay at the USC Hotel in an email obtained by Annenberg Media. Aside from the information on standard room service meals and contactless check-in instructions, the email stated that students must log their symptoms and temperature (using a thermometer provided by USC) twice daily.

If a student were to have a temperature higher than 100.3 degrees, they were asked to call the Student Health Center. The email included guidelines on mental health support, isolation expectations, check-out information and delivery services for Amazon, grocery stores and restaurants.

USC’s statement also said, “When a student goes to one of the isolation spaces provided by the university, they agree to follow all university rules regarding COVID-19 as a condition of their isolation stay at the hotel.”

While the university has worked to provide students with safe isolation spaces, the amenities offered and the rules imposed upon students have not been uniform across the board.