Declining number of positive cases is not enough to comfort all Trojans

Because USC loosened COVID-19 testing requirements, the number of reported cases is less reliable.

COVID testing site

Recent data has shown a significant decline in COVID-19 cases this week following steep move-in spikes, according to the USC Health Office.

Dr. Sarah Van Orman, the chief health officer for USC Student Health, remains hopeful that cases will continue to drop as students settle into the new semester.

“I anticipate we will start seeing cases go down some time this week,” Van Orman said.

As of Tuesday, there has been a roughly 50% decrease from last week’s positive cases, according to the USC Health Office. Without required testing, however, these numbers may not be a reliable indicator of rates on campus.

As USC has transitioned to self-reported testing, “positivity rate is not a metric we’re following on campus anymore,” Van Orman said. The positive rate “isn’t really a number anymore that tells us anything about infection.”

This possibility worries some students.

“I think tests for sure would be really helpful,” said graduate student Saadiya Nazir, who is in favor mandating weekly testing. “I still have to go to class and just live life, so it’s very anxiety-inducing.”

Nazir said she isn’t surprised USC has loosened their restrictions, but feels uncomfortable with its laxity, especially in class. She shared that in one of her classes when there was a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, the class was online for a single session before resuming in-person instruction.

Monse Garcia, a freshman majoring in political science, said she knows people on campus who chose not to report their positive test results to USC.

“I feel it’s really important to know, for example, when a person in your class was last on campus to see if you’re in danger,” said Garcia.

University policy requires all students to complete a contact tracing form and notify all close contacts within 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. For asymptomatic cases, it’s 48 hours before receiving the positive result but many students fear that they aren’t being adequately notified.

Ailan Atasoy, a senior majoring in health and human sciences, shared her surprise when a friend she was in close contact with didn’t warn her about a positive COVID-19 test.

“I found out from someone else that they had COVID,” Atasoy Said. “But they didn’t really go out of their way to tell anyone else that’s not their roommate.”

For Senior Taliyah Emory-Muhammed, mandatory daily testing and filling out the contact tracing form would be a hassle.

“Maybe there should be a little bit more flexibility with recording of classes, and just in general how we treat illnesses outside of COVID,” he said.

For Nazir, however, the pandemic remains a threat.

“I’m doing my best to be safe, and doing everything I can,” Nazir said. “[But] it’s hard to feel safe after COVID in general.”