USC plans ‘full return’ to campus for fall semester, announces vaccination program

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A student wears a face mask at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California on March 11, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

A student wears a face mask at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California on March 11, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The University of Southern California is planning a “full return” to campus for the fall semester, President Carol L. Folt said in a letter to students Friday.

“As we look ahead, there is good news to report,” she wrote. “Coming out of the holiday surge, we are seeing encouraging trends here in Los Angeles.”

Citing a decline in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, as well as L.A. County’s implementation of a vaccine rollout, Folt said the university will reopen come August with in-person classes and residential life. She wrote in her letter that the county “will soon be updating health guidelines that will allow the return of some activities to our campuses.”

Folt also announced a “campus vaccine operation,” with a goal of inoculating 1,200 people a week when supply is more readily available, as the state is currently facing a shortage in doses.

Additionally, the school will put into place a coronavirus testing program, operating twice a week for undergraduate students and weekly for all others accessing campus.

Physical distancing measures will be instituted, along with the reconfiguration of classrooms and outdoor facilities, the president’s letter states.

USC has aimed to reopen its campus twice before, first for the fall semester last August and again for the current spring semester in January. Both times, plans were nixed due to rising COVID-19 infections in L.A. County.

Folt said she doesn’t expect the current semester to revert to in-person classes, but some access to campus will be allowed “as soon as possible”

“As you know, we have been actively advocating for increased campus access for our students,” she wrote. “While we do not have approval, nor do we expect to receive it, for in-person classes this semester, we will be able to open our libraries at a reduced capacity, as well as our swimming pools, outdoor recreation areas, study canopies, and our bookstore opened this week for appointment shopping.”

In her letter, the university president addressed the possibility for an in-person commencement, saying the school has been developing plans for multiple scenarios, including the use of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for an in-person event with “extremely limited” capacity, in addition to an immersive virtual celebration.

“We continue to gather input from our community and health authorities on our planning and are taking into account the many variables and potential unknowns,” Folt said. “We are cautiously optimistic and are doing everything to make sure our plans for a return are fully realized.

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