USC will begin next semester remotely, require booster shots amid COVID surge

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The University of Southern California is requiring all students and staff to get their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for the spring semester, which is set to begin remotely amid concerns over the new omicron variant.

The university announced on Friday that all faculty, staff, and students will be required to receive a booster shot as soon as they are eligible, and that deadlines will be shared next week.

And while classes will begin as scheduled on Jan. 10, 2022, the first week of classes will be held remotely, USC announced. In-person learning will continue on Jan. 18.

Students will also be required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before moving into university housing and before in-person classes resume.

USC will also continue regular surveillance testing of its students.

The university’s announcement comes after California State University and the University of California system both mandated boosters for students and staff across their campuses after winter break.

UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego have announced two-week delays to in-person classes after the break.

The mandates for university students come as California begins another winter COVID-19 surge, with new infections and hospitalization numbers already rising.

Fueling concerns is the omicron variant, which is increasingly being detected throughout the state.

State officials have said that clinical and wastewater data shows that omicron is present in most of California, indicating that there has likely been community transmission of the variant. 

At least three health systems in California have reported that about 50 to 70% of their COVID-19 cases are consistent with omicron.

California’s latest COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have largely been occurring among unvaccinated people, who were 14.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19, according to the California Department of Public Health, which cited data from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24, 2021.

Los Angeles County, in particular, has seen its daily coronavirus case numbers skyrocket.

The county reported 9,988 new coronavirus cases Friday, 8,633 on Thursday and 6,509 the day before.

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