The Daily Gamecock

COVID-19 on campus: USC reports 121 active cases as classes begin, upticks expected

The University of South Carolina reported 121 current active cases of COVID-19, according to the first COVID-19 dashboard of the fall semester. 

Students contracted the majority of the current COVID-19 cases, as the university reported 107 student cases and 14 faculty cases. 

In total, 242 positive COVID-19 tests have been reported to the university since Aug. 1. Of these, there were 182 positive tests on campus. 

About 3,300 students were tested between Aug. 15 and Aug. 21. Of these tests, the positive rate was 2.8%. In the same time frame, nearly 700 faculty and staff members were tested, with a positive rate of 1.8%.

Currently, about 60% of USC students, faculty and staff are fully vaccinated, according to the dashboard update. 59.8% of students are fully vaccinated, while 73.7% of faculty and 62.7% of staff is fully vaccinated. 

All students are required to get tested once a month. Students will get an email the week they need to get tested, and may choose to get tested on campus or to submit documentation of an off-campus test, according to USC's testing information website. 

This week, anyone with a valid Carolina Card can walk in and get tested at Russell House in rooms 303 and 304 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the front entrance of the Carolina Coliseum from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or at 1311 Pendleton Street from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The schedule for the week of Aug. 28 has not been released yet. 

Students can also make an appointment to be tested through MyHealthSpace.

Students, faculty and staff can get a walk-up vaccine at the Center for Health and Well-Being from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

Interim Chief Health Officer Jason Stacey said in a Aug. 24 press conference that upticks in case numbers are expected as students return to campus. 

Stacy said there were conversations about mandating a COVID-19 vaccine, but state law prohibits USC from doing so.

"If the situation becomes dire, we would not contemplate violating any law, we would contemplate discussing the issue with lawmakers. That has always been my approach," interim university President Harris Pastides said. 

Pastides said there is flexibility with faculty to change the modalities of their classes, but the decision will remain with the department chairs, deans and provost if necessary. 

"We did contract with students, though, for face-to-face experience. That's what they're telling us that they love," Pastides said. 

Last semester's COVID-19 dashboard showed the open number of quarantine and isolation spaces on campus. This is no longer shown on the dashboard. However, Stacy said there are about 200 spaces for students who can't make it home to quarantine or for isolation on an "emergency basis." 

"As students came back to campus, every student was required to upload a plan for what they would do if they needed to quarantine and isolate," Stacy said. 

The COVID-19 alert level for the university is at 0.40, which is within the "new normal" level. The alert level is based off campus testing, quarantine, mitigation compliance, impact on operations and more. 

The dashboard is updated every Tuesday.