COVID-19 FAQ for USC Viterbi Researchers

Last updated: January 15, 2021 8:48am

Find other FAQ and related info pages on our COVID-19 Response Page

Link to USC Research Restart FAQ page

Link to USC COVID-19 Research Continuity Guidelines and Resources

Additional FAQS:

Q: Where is Viterbi currently at in terms of reopening research?

A: Viterbi is following university guidelines which requires a phased reopening of research.  As part of this we are currently at a phase where we will achieve a certain percentage of our total capacity. The de-densification in this phase will be achieved by ensuring 10’ physical distancing among researchers. In addition, computational and theoretical research will be at 20% occupancy and experimental research will be at 50% occupancy.  Details of all the planned phases can be found here.

Q: How do I know that I am supposed to return to on-campus research?

A: Since not all labs are returning to on-campus research, this is a lab (or group) specific question. Please check with your PhD advisor.

Q: What steps do I need to take to get back to on-campus research? 

A: Once you and your PhD advisor have agreed that you will be returning to campus in Phase 2, you have:

1. Complete the mandatory Health, Hygiene and Safety Training course offered on Trojanlearn.  The appropriate module for PhD students is Health, Hygiene and Safety for Research Students.  For post-docs, research staff and faculty, the appropriate module is Health, Hygiene and Safety for Research Employees.

2. Use the Trojan Check Web App each time you want to visit the campus.  This page provides resources for both of these steps.  Technical issues with TrojanCheck itself – including accidental or incorrect submissions – should be directed to the ITS Service Desk @ (213) 740-5555 or

3.  Immunizations, including influenza

4.  Required COVID-19 testing

5.  Completion of symptom check systems (Trojan Check), and

6.  Compliance with student conduct expectations and policies

7.  When you are on campus, follow the guidelines described in the Health, Hygiene and Safety Training module, and the ones listed below (in response to the next question).

Q: What safety measures are necessary for on-campus research?

A:The University is also taking steps to maximize the health and safety of our campus communities for the time when we are able to increase campus density. For the Spring 2021 semester, all USC students will be required to update their current addresses in OASIS by January 15, 2021.

Students residing locally on or near campuses and on-site employees will be eligible for access to university facilities and services—including isolation and quarantine facilities and COVID-19 testing—as permitted by the University and approved by local public health officials, provided they meet the requirements for access:

1. Immunizations, including influenza

2. Required COVID-19 testing

3. Completion of symptom check systems (Trojan Check), and

4. Compliance with student conduct expectations and policies

Additional information on these four requirements can be found here.

The Trojanlearn module will clarify this. In addition, you are required to:

  • Adhere to physical distancing (10 feet distance), and PPE guidelines (face masks all the time).
  • Adhere to the University guidelines on check-in/out and symptom reporting.
  • Stay at home if you are exposed to a sick family member or housemate.
  • Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your labs such as workstations, keyboards, handrails, doorknobs, counters, tables, and other equipment, and appliances.
  • Adhere  to University signage. There will be lots of new signage.
  • Know who the  COVID-19 coordinator for your lab is.
  • Know and follow your lab schedule.
  • Check on the adequate supply of hand sanitizers, disinfecting solution, disposable tissues and no-touch disposal containers in your lab. Contact Gloria Wan, Viterbi Facilities, ( /(213) 740‑4175)) in case more supplies are needed.
  • Check on the adequate supply of PPEs. Contact Gloria Wan, Viterbi Facilities, ( /(213) 740‑4175)) in case more supplied are needed.
  • Know what your workspace is and do not enter the workspace of others.
  • Follow etiquette standards in restrooms and common interaction areas (e.g., one person per standard restroom or elevator at any one time).
  • Minimize eating and drinking on campus (consider consuming these outside).

Q: What if I am in the “high risk” category for COVID-19, or live with a family member in this category? What should I do?

A: CDC has defined high-risk categories for COVID-19 (

If you belong to these categories, or live with a family member who does, contact your PhD advisor or Andy Chen, the Director of Doctoral Programs (, to plan how you can continue to work without coming to campus. Remember, you do not have to disclose which high risk  category you belong to; rather just say that you belong to one.

Q: I am not in the “high risk” category for COVID-19, but do not feel comfortable about coming back to campus. What should I do?

A: You are encouraged to have a discussion with your PhD advisor. Alternatively, you may contact Andy Chen, the Director of Doctoral Programs ( The department, school and University will work with you to come up with a solution.

Q: Will parking continue to be free for researchers?

A: Parking will continue to be free during this phase.  It is recommended that you create an account in the parking website ( and register your vehicle and add your contact information.  After this phase, there may potentially be prorated costs for parking for researchers.

Q: Does Viterbi have a contingency plan for a second wave of COVID-19?  What does this mean for researchers?

A: The Health committee in the University is constantly monitoring the situation and is in touch with the local authorities. As far as research is concerned, we are prepared to de-densify the campus back to Phase 1 level in case the situation dictates this.

Q: Is COVID-19 testing required and are they available on campus?

A: Yes, beginning January 15th, 2021, Graduate and professional students, faculty, and staff who come onto our campuses will be required to test once weekly. These required tests will be provided by the University at no cost to our current students, faculty and staff. Tests are PCR (polymerase chain reaction); Keck Medicine of USC Clinical Laboratories is providing the laboratory services for this program which will replace the COLOR program for most individuals.

  • The specimen collection for Spring testing involves saliva collection: see the Quick Guide to Pop Testing for additional information on Spring locations and preparing for saliva collection. Anterior nasal swab collection, the same collection type as the Fall surveillance program, will be added in the next few weeks.
  • Scheduling COVID-19 testing is through the secure health record portal, MySHR ( Log in by using your USC NetID and password. For users new to the portal, please see the Quick Guide for MySHR.
  • For USC populations on the unmonitored testing program (kit distribution and sample drop-off) this program will continue until further notice; your program manager will be contacted if there are changes to this system for your group.
  • Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 should not test within 90 days of their positive test, and are automatically exempted from the testing requirement if their testing is through USC Student Health. If you have results that are from outside of USC Student Health, please upload them to MySHR ( .
  • Please note: the USC COVID-19 Pop Testing 3.0 program is for eligible USC students, faculty, staff, authorized contractors and USC Housing residents only. Results are associated with your medical record; positive case information is required to be reported to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Do not use this program to let others screen/test using your identity, as this constitutes identity fraud, delays contact tracing, and may lead to University disciplinary action and civil/criminal charges.

Q: I have been tested positive for COVID-19, do I have to report to someone at USC?

A: Yes. Please contact USC COVID-19 hotline at 213-740-6291 or They will ask you about your USC related activities so that they can initiate contact-tracing.

Q: What happens if someone in my lab has tested positive for Covid-19?

A: The lab will be asked to close temporarily until it is determined safe to return.  The university will use contact tracing and contact all individuals who could have come in touch with the infected individual. These individuals will be given instructions on what to do. This will include things like self-isolating and getting tested.

Q: Will the school provide us the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

A: Yes. PPEs will be delivered to your research group by your department.  Please reach out to your department contact (see table below) or your advisor.

Department Contact(s)

AME: Jorge Castilla

ASTE: Marlyn Lat

BME: Karen Johnson

CEE: Jake Kirchner or Jeleel Osunkunle

CS: Steve Schrader

ECE-EEP: Kim Reid

ECE-EES: Ted Low

ISE: Shelly Lewis or Roxanna Carter

MFD: Ralph Wipfli

CNI: John Curulli

Q: Will there be checks to make sure that researchers are adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols?

A:Yes. Every building where research is going on has been assigned a covid-19 building monitor who will make random visits to the building and labs and will ensure compliance. If labs are found to be non-compliant this will be reported to the Dean’s office, EHS and the other University officials.

Also, in case you observe someone not adhering to guidelines please report to your PhD advisor. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you 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 (

Q: Is COVID-19 related healthcare covered by health insurance?

A: Please check the USC Covid Health Insurance FAQ for information related to health care coverage for students.

Q: Has there been any updates in regards to RA/TAs being able to work remotely abroad?

A:Unfortunately, USC still cannot pay GRAs or TAs stipends to students who are abroad.  Students who are thinking of traveling internationally should keep this in mind and seek guidance from our VASE staff at


For any additional questions, please contact Andy Chen, the Director of Doctoral Programs (