COVID-19 infections are soaring in Columbia as students, faculty and staff return to campus. More than 1,000 cases were reported to the university since Jan. 1, according to data USC released on Tuesday.
There are currently 867 total active COVID-19 cases on campus. Of these cases, 676 are students and 191 are faculty and staff.
This is a stark contrast to the 15 COVID-19 cases USC reported at the end of last semester.
Nearly one in four students who got tested from Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 tested positive. In November 2021, the student positivity rate never broke 1%.
This falls in line with national averages due to the spreading Omicron variant. There are currently 869,217 cases in South Carolina, according to data the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported on Tuesday.
Interim university President Harris Pastides said in a message to the Carolina community on Tuesday that he expects a surge of cases throughout January and February.
"I'm hopeful that, in a couple of months, the worst of Omicron will be behind us," Pastides said in the email. "In the meantime, the university will continue to encourage physical distancing and safe gathering practices, require masks in classrooms and other indoor spaces, mandate universal testing at intervals dictated by the data, require isolation of those with positive test results for the period recommended by national and state public health authorities, and encourage vaccination and boosters for all."
Nearly 70% of students and staff are vaccinated and more than 80% of faculty is vaccinated, the university reported.
USC students, faculty and staff can get tested and vaccinated on campus. Monthly student testing will be required starting next week.
USC's COVID-19 dashboard calculates an alert level based on 11 factors including campus testing, isolation capacity and campus case burden. The current alert level is set between the low and moderate levels.
USC updates its COVID-19 dashboard every Tuesday.