University of Southern California


COVID-19 Research Guidance

As of July 1st:

We are now in Phase 5, while continuing to adhere to physical distancing, PPE, and testing guidelines. Click here for the latest university news.

Returning to Campus

On-campus research is permitted to resume in compliance with Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocols. Remote options can continue to support de-densifying areas when possible. Please visit the OPRS website for more specific requirements regarding clinical research.

Refer to the USC Research Ramp-Up Process which includes school-approved PI/lab/group-level plans and University-approved school level plans.Restart Plans should reflect all the information on this page. Use the USC Campus Restart Phase 5 Guidelines and related Appendix Materials to create your Restart Plan (USC Single Sign On required for access). PIs and research administrators should review all COVID-19 safety measures with their groups to ensure compliance with all the measures in the Appendix Materials. Continue to maintain highest safety practices in all in-person activity and use remote work methods whenever possible.

Researchers returning to campus should schedule deliveries as required. Additionally, areas returning should also contact mailing services to inform them of how to proceed with internal mail delivery (resume delivery or continue holding for pick up, etc.); the email contact for this is  or they can contact the Mailing Services manager Nita Pilate at (213) 821-1238.

COVID-19 Vaccination

All faculty, staff, and students must be fully vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption. Schools and departments should not inquire about the vaccine status of any employees including student workers. Differential policies should not be created by anyone based on vaccine status. We must assume all campus settings are mixed (vaccinated and unvaccinated).

We encourage all USC employees to sign up for a vaccine through to book a vaccine appointment as soon as one is available. Appointments are also available through the City of Los Angeles website. New appointments are added regularly as vaccine supplies become available. As required in the University’s vaccine policy (Appendix 3K), please submit your vaccine record (after any dose) in MySHR, or the declination form (if you choose not to be vaccinated).

Symptom Screening

Everyone must complete the daily symptom check (Trojan Check) prior to accessing campus or participating in any USC programs or activities. Anyone with affirmative answers on Trojan Check must immediately self-isolate in their personal residence and should seek medical attention. The Trojan Check sign-in screen will indicate if your compliance is current or the reason(s) it may be deactivated. Everyone must also complete the new “Health, Hygiene, & Safety” Training on Trojan Learn by August 15 (even if you have previously taken an earlier version) and sign the “Informed Consent” form committing to following USC’s COVID-19 protocols.

Weekly COVID-19 testing (Pop Testing 3.0) (or twice weekly, for undergraduate students) is only required for those who are not fully vaccinated or have symptoms. Please visit the OPRS website for more specific requirements regarding clinical research.

Illness Policy

Any faculty, staff, or student with any symptoms of COVID-19 or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should refrain from coming to campus and should promptly contact USC Student Health for testing.

If an employee becomes diagnosed with COVID-19 and has been on USC facilities or in contact with USC faculty, staff, or students within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, notify USC by calling the USC COVID-19 hotline at 213-740-6291 or Individuals should also notify their supervisor or dean that they will not be going to work.

Returning to campus locations and activities are not permitted until either a) all symptoms have resolved for at least 3 days and 10 days have elapsed from the onset of symptoms and the campus check-in process approves the return to campus: or b) receiving written clearance from your healthcare provider. Verification should be coordinated with the supervisor and HR partner. Please see Appendix 3B for information regarding potential COVID-19 exposure.

Mask/Face Covering

All individuals are required to wear a mask/face covering indoors. Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals must also continue to wear a mask/face covering outdoors when distancing cannot be maintained as well as be be tested regularly (1/week for faculty/staff/graduate students and 2/week for undergraduates). USC will provide N95 masks available to unvaccinated employees upon request. Please visit the OPRS website for more specific requirements regarding clinical research.

Exceptions to masking include when you are in a private office with closed doors or eating/drinking while maintaining 6 ft minimum distance from others. All unvaccinated faculty, staff, and students are expected to keep a minimum of 6 ft. between individuals on campus and all USC locations when masks/face coverings are removed (ex. when actively eating/drinking). Everyone is expected to practice good daily hygiene and handwashing/hand sanitizing practices.

Use of Shared Spaces and Equipment

Wherever possible, faculty and staff should use only their own equipment (e.g., phones, keyboards, furniture, etc.). When faculty and staff need to share workstations, phones, keyboards, research equipment, etc., a protocol to disinfect these surfaces before and after each employee’s use should be in place.

Any high-touch surfaces in common areas (e.g., door handles, coffee machines, refrigerators, lab bench, desktops, computer switches, keyboards, etc.) will be cleaned by FMS on a regular schedule. Additional workspace cleaning measures should be implemented based on guidelines provided in Appendix 3H. Specific plans must be in place to ensure all shared equipment is disinfected before and after use by each person.

Reporting Non-Compliance

Any non-compliance to safety policies (physical distancing, facial coverings, PPE, hand washing, etc.) in other researchers observed by an individual (student, postdoc, staff and faculty) may be reported directly to the individual’s PI or the Vice Dean for Research. If an individual prefers to remain anonymous, they may report their concern by calling the USC Help and Hotline at (213) 740-2500 or (800) 348-7454; or by filing a report over the web.


Visitors to campus include, but are not limited to: visiting faculty, volunteers, contractors, event attendees, and other visitors to campus buildings. Visitors are expected to follow all public health guidance from the City and County of Los Angeles and abide by campus guidelines and signage to ensure a safe community for all. Please visit the OPRS website for more specific requirements regarding clinical research.

Visitors to campus are permitted as part of approved and permitted activities. Visitors will follow all public health guidance from the City and County of Los Angeles, abide by campus rules and signage and be pre-registered through the Trojan Check Web App or by providing a complete, signed, and printed Coronavirus Screening Questionnaire (Appendix 3C). Detailed visitor guidance is in Appendix 2C. Visitors who require an accommodation due to a disability should refer to Appendix 4B.


Students (PhD, MS, and undergraduates) are now allowed to work on campus in person in approved activities, including research, by being included on essential employee lists and/or provided with university employment verification letters. All students, faculty and staff can make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccination; log in to MySHR. For more information, see Appendix 4A.

Summer Youth Programs

In-person youth events can begin on June 1, 2021, providing organizers adhere to the following list of requirements and restrictions, and receive approval from the Office of the Provost. Learn more.


Non-essential travel is discouraged for unvaccinated individuals. Centralized approval process is required for international travel to State Department Level 4 countries; travel to non-Level 4 countries is at the discretion of school-level policies (for those, it is best to check with the school’s vice/associate/divisional dean of research).

Travel conditions are always subject to LA County restrictions; please continue to consult travel advisories from the CDCCalifornia Public Health and LA County Department of Public Health. Faculty are advised to book fully cancellable airline tickets and accommodation, since the university cannot reimburse canceled research travel costs.

See Travel Guidance for more information.

Situation Type of Expense Can the Expense be Charged to my Sponsored Project?
A project-related conference is cancelled Non-refundable cancellation costs for flight and/or hotel  Eligible to be charged to the award, as allowable, allocable, and reasonable
 A project related conference hosted by my federal sponsor is cancelled Non-refundable cancellation costs for flight and/or hotel  Eligible to be charged to the award, as allowable, allocable, and reasonable
 A project related conference is held in a restricted country, according to CDC Level 3 Countries Non-refundable cancellation costs for flight, hotel and/or registration. Eligible to be charged to the award, as allowable, allocable, and reasonable
A project related conference is held, but the USC participant decides not to attend. Non-refundable cancellation costs for flight, hotel and/or registration. Prior approval from the sponsor is required.

Please note: If an airline and/or hotel offer credits in lieu of a refund, the costs associated with the flight and/or hotel cannot be direct charged to a sponsored project.