Health & Wellness

Students face the possibility of re-masking during a surge of positive cases on campus

USC community feels conflicted about the prospect of re-masking.

Two students sit at a table doing work — one is wearing a mask, while the other is not.

With flu season about to kick off in the wake of a new COVID-19 outbreak, students are bracing for coughs, colds and a spike in positive cases.

Many students feel as if the pandemic is over. Dr. Sarah Van Orman, vice president and chief campus health officer, says otherwise.

“We’re seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and that’s the primary respiratory illness that we’re seeing right now,” said Orman in a student health briefing with Annenberg Media.

Following an order from the L.A. County Health Department, several businesses are once again requiring their employees to wear masks in the workplace.

At USC, students and staff are beginning to think about the possibility of re-masking.

“There have been surges again and I think that for most of my classes, [wearing masks] wouldn’t really impact anything,” said V Collins-Laine, a senior majoring in interactive entertainment. “Even if it was just for large lecture classrooms I think that it would make a lot of sense.”

Darrell Harris, a driver for USC Transportation, doesn’t feel masks are necessary and said he would feel upset if a mask mandate took effect again on campus.

“I really don’t believe that the mask helped at all,” said Harris. “I’ve done some research on it and I just don’t think they would be useful.”

However, some students think that masking up could be beneficial.

“Considering that the COVID cases have been rising especially here in L.A., I think it would be understandable to start having indoor classes to start wearing masks,” said Nathan Hyun, a junior in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

On Sept. 1, USC’s COVID-19 Resource Center sent out a general update indicating a “slight expected increase” in COVID-19 cases on campus.

At the end of August, the university reported less than 40 new cases, according to USC’s COVID-19 notification page. As of Monday, that number has more than doubled to 84 confirmed positive cases. As of Wednesday, reported cases dropped to 20.

L.A. County has been receiving reports of positive cases at increased rates since the beginning of August, a few weeks before students returned to campus. The university encourages students who are feeling sick to get tested in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

Dr. Van Orman wants to decrease the amount of students testing positive.

“We want to kind of minimize the spread, minimize the number of people that are missing class or staying home sick [and] minimize the risk to people who might be at higher risk because of their underlying health status,” said Van Orman.

USC recommends students keep up with their health and hygiene to reduce the spread of illness on campus. This includes washing your hands more often, staying home if you are sick and wearing a mask.

As flu season approaches with positive COVID-19 cases on the rise, Dr. Van Orman is not yet worried about enforcing any mandates.

“We would follow L.A. Department of Public Health in terms of re-implementing any requirements, such as masking, or, you know, mandatory testing, it’s unlikely either of those things would happen across the board,” said Van Orman.