COVID Hits USC Students And Faculty Hard As Virus Spreads To Younger Population

A coronavirus outbreak has hit USC’s fraternity row, where about 40 people tested positive for

A coronavirus outbreak has hit USC’s fraternity row, where about 40 people tested positive for COVID-19, USC Student Health’s chief health officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman told the Los Angeles Times.

“A significant number of the cases were associated with four fraternity houses,” Van Orman said. The outbreak did not stop there, however.

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In all, about 150 Trojan students and employees have tested positive so far, even as the school has moved the vast majority of classes online, canceled events, limited on-campus housing, added mask requirements as well as social-distancing and symptom-checking measures.

“Unless all of us understand that right now our only tools are physical distancing and wearing masks, we’re going to continue to have devastation, not only in terms of the economy, our learning, our academics, our jobs, but people dying,” Van Orman said. “Each of us have to decide what we stand for. Frats need to do that as well.”

L.A. County at large confirmed 2,628 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. To date, the county has identified 185,872 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. The day before, the region recorded 4,825 new coronavirus infections. That’s a record number of new cases for a single day

While early in L.A.’s coronavirus outbreak cases were much more prevalent among people over 60 years old, a majority of the area’s infections have now been recorded in people between the ages of 18 and 49.

Meanwhile, the university announced Thursday that in August it will begin ramping up to a minimum of 500 tests per day for students and on-site faculty and staff. It will set up three observed sample-collection sites and will eventually transition to an unobserved self-collection model to increase access to fast, convenient and efficient surveillance testing, according to Van Orman.

“By increasing our testing capacity, we will be able to more quickly capture and contain sources of infection,” Van Orman said.

She added that partnering with Color, a company that specializes in distributed healthcare and clinical testing, “will expand our knowledge of prevalence and detection of asymptomatic cases at USC, so that we may make better-informed healthcare decisions.”

The program is being operated through Color’s technology and testing infrastructure, including software to manage risk screening, onsite and distributed testing logistics and processing of samples.

The population surveillance testing program, named “Pop Testing,” is scheduled to begin next month with current summer campus constituents and expand to the larger campus populations throughout the fall semester.

On Thursday, the region reported 41 new COVID-related deaths over the same 24-hour period, for a total of 4,552 lives lost to the virus.

L.A. County health officials warned, however, that “Over 2,000 of those cases are from a backlog in lab reporting.” Taking that into account, the director said, “we’re really about 1,000 cases higher than we were a month ago.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

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