The Daily Gamecock

White House official visits USC to discuss testing, routine surveillance

The response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx, sat down with USC leadership and state and local officials to talk about the coronavirus on campus. 

Birx initially met behind closed doors with university leadership and state and local officials to discuss her points. During a press conference afterward, Birx said her team is working on sending a surge testing team to Columbia to try to find and isolate all asymptomatic cases.

She said universities should stay open.

“Millions and millions of university college students have moved to college towns, independent of whether that college was online or in-person,” Birx said. “We believe having these in-person parts to the college experience are not only critical, but critical for public health because students know where their care can be gotten and know where testings can be had.”  

To try to keep students safe on campus, Birx talked about implementing "routine surveillance" moving forward at USC, such as possibly using student ID numbers as a means of contact tracing, but Birx did not give any specifics. 

She said everyone makes mistakes, but students should get tested three to four days after every time they are hanging out with friends and not socially distancing or wearing masks. 

“I think that's a responsible piece — we are not perfect individuals,” Birx said. “We all, in the moment, will have a lack of judgment, so, really, a critical thing is to then follow up with the responsible behavior and get tested." 

President Bob Caslen put out an email statement after the meeting thanking Birx for her visit. 

Caslen said Birx's visit "reinforced our view that our COVID plans are robust, flexible and focused on the right outcomes."