USC will be canceling in-person lectures, moving classes completely online beginning Wednesday, March 11 through Friday, March 13. While classes are still in session and the calendar is moving forward as scheduled, virtual attendance will be mandatory for three days as the university tests its technical capabilities. 

With close to 7,000 lecture classes taking place this spring, ensuring academic continuity is of utmost importance for faculty. USC is verifying its ability to be fully functional in the face of possible coronavirus-related disruption by offering this online replacement for academic activities. 

In a public release, Charles F. Zukoski, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said, “I emphasize that this is a test of our capabilities. The university is fully functional. Student residential colleges, dining halls, offices, libraries, health centers, and recreation and athletics facilities are open. Campus events are scheduled to take place as planned. Employees are expected to be at work.”

All faculty have been ordered to switch to a school-specific virtual learning system so classes and office hours can continue online. Instructors are working with students who need special technical accommodations to guarantee access to all who need it. 

While there are no cases of coronavirus, known as COVID-19, at USC, student and staff safety remains a top priority on campus. With both California and Los Angeles County declaring states of emergency over the potential pandemic, the provost emphasizes that there is no immediate threat to the general public and this week’s exercise is about readiness, not reactivity. 

Novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed with a growing frequency around the globe, prompting some city governments to take drastic precautions. As such, USC has issued a warning strongly advising against international travel for both students and employees over spring break. Anyone who travels to an international location — or travels from an international location — may be required to complete a health screening process and undergo possible isolation measures before being allowed on campus. 

“LAC-USC Medical Center has an active infection control department to protect the patients and staff from transmission of infectious disease,” explains Emi Minejima, an assistant professor at the USC School of Pharmacy and an authority in infectious diseases treatment and infection control. “We are following CDC recommendations on appropriate screening, triage and assessment of potential cases. We are also following appropriate isolation precautions including using a negative pressure room, and protective equipment for the staff who are caring for any cases, as per recommended by the CDC.”

“It’s very important to stay home when you are feeling sick and especially when you are symptomatic with cough, runny nose and fevers,” Minejima furthers. “Depending on what you are sick from, you can be contagious to those around you and cause illness in those you have contact with. It’s also important to do appropriate hand washing when you are sick.”

“Proper hand-washing is the best way to protect yourself,” agrees Emily Blodget, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC, and an expert in infectious diseases. “A lot of people just wash the palms, not the top. They also miss the area around the thumb and between the fingers. You should use enough soap to cover your hands and wash them long enough to say your ABCs.”

As of now, all coronavirus-related restrictions at USC are merely a test of its capabilities, to prepare for the possibility of an outbreak. Students, employees, and residents who are concerned should visit USC’s official page on COVID-19 for updates regarding the coronavirus at USC. 

“I am proud of how supportive our community has been,” states provost Charles F. Zukoski. “We will continue to follow the guidance of our health experts and we will take every step possible to ensure the wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff.”

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