COVID-19 Research Guidance

COVID-19 Research Guidance

As of March 31:

We are in Phase 5, while continuing to adhere to physical distancing, PPE, and testing guidelines. Remote options can continue to support de-densifying areas when possible.

Beginning Monday, April 4, Trojan Check will no longer be required to access campus. Although your Trojan Check will not be verified when you access campus, all faculty, staff, and students should continue to check their symptoms whenever coming to campus. Trojan Check will remain available as a helpful tool to complete this. For more information, see below.

Returning to Campus

On-campus research is permitted to resume in compliance with the 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 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 Mail7777@usc.edu  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. As of December 24, 2021, the University is also requiring booster doses.

Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters remains the best protection against severe disease and hospitalization. Being up to date means receiving a primary series and booster(s) when eligible. The CDC has released new second booster recommendations:

  • Anyone over the age of 50 is now eligible for a second booster, as long as four months have passed since their first booster. This is especially important for individuals over 65 and those over 50 with medical conditions that weaken their immune systems.
  • Anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as their primary series should receive a second booster with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), four months after their first booster.

Booster appointments are available through USC Pharmacy. 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 myturn.ca.gov 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) or the declination form (if you choose not to be vaccinated) to MySHR.

Symptom Screening and Testing

With cases of COVID-19 remaining low across Los Angeles County, the university is making further changes to its pandemic mitigation strategies to align with changing guidelines from Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles. Beginning Monday, April 4, Trojan Check will no longer be required to access campus, and the University Park Campus perimeter will no longer be staffed by CARE Crew personnel verifying Trojan Check compliance. On the Health Sciences Campus, access controls currently in place at the entrances to non-clinical buildings may also be discontinued.

The physical infrastructure around our University Park Campus will, for the time being, remain in place, should conditions necessitate the reintroduction of perimeter access controls in the future. Although your Trojan Check will not be verified when you access campus, all faculty, staff, and students should continue to check their symptoms whenever coming to campus. The Trojan Check wellness assessment will remain available as a helpful tool to complete this.

As announced in February, students, faculty, and staff who are fully vaccinated and up to date with their boosters are no longer required to participate in surveillance testing. Those who are not up to date on vaccines are required to test once per week. Testing also remains available for all students, faculty, and staff who develop symptoms or have been exposed to someone with symptoms. Information about testing, including scheduling details, is available here.

All students, faculty, staff, and visitors should monitor themselves for symptoms daily when accessing campus. If you develop any of the symptoms listed by the CDC, please stay home and arrange to have a COVID-19 test as soon as possible.

Mask/Face Covering

Masks are not required but remain highly recommended, and they are required in some indoor settings such as health care facilities (including patient care buildings and testing sites) and on public transportation (including USC shuttles). N95 masks are available to all studentsfaculty, and staff who wish to increase their personal protection. These are available upon request and at no cost.

Although USC is following the CDC and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in removing masking as a requirement, we want to be clear that masks will continue to be welcome on campus for all those who wish to continue taking extra precautions. According to the County’s guidelines, although masking is no longer required indoors, it remains strongly recommended. The use of an N95 mask, in particular, provides a high level of personal protection to those who are concerned about their personal risk or risk to those around them. N95 masks are available to any faculty, staff, or student upon request and at no cost.

In addition, testing remains free and available to all students, faculty, and staff. Mandatory testing for the following groups remains in place:

  • Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated students, staff, and faculty must be tested every 72 hours in accordance with public health guidelines.
  • Students who are vaccinated but have not received their booster vaccine when eligible test twice per week.
  • Staff and faculty who are vaccinated but have not received their booster vaccine when eligible must test once per week.

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.

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 covid19@usc.edu. 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.

Guests/Visitors

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, 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.

Beginning November 8, guests and visitors aged 12 and older should be prepared to show proof of vaccination to enter campus. As an alternative, guests or visitors who have a medical or religious objection to obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination may produce a negative COVID-19 test taken in the past 72 hours together with a photo ID.

Please visit the OPRS website for more specific requirements regarding clinical research.

Students

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.

As of March 1, 2022, students who are up to date on their vaccinations (fully vaccinated; and have received a booster if currently eligible) are no longer required to test weekly. Mandatory testing (Pop Testing 3.0) for the following groups remains in place:

  • Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated students, staff, and faculty must be tested every 72 hours in accordance with public health guidelines.
  • Students who are vaccinated but have not received their booster vaccine when eligible test twice per week.
  • Staff and faculty who are vaccinated but have not received their booster vaccine when eligible must test once per week.

Travel

Travel is now permitted, but business travel out of state is not permitted for unvaccinated persons barring special circumstances. 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.

SituationType of ExpenseCan the Expense be Charged to my Sponsored Project?
A project-related conference is cancelledNon-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 cancelledNon-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 CountriesNon-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.