As COVID-19 cases spike in Los Angeles, USC tells students to take courses online this semester

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As Los Angeles and the rest of California continues to see a rise in coronavirus cases, the University of Southern California is telling its undergraduates to prepare for a virtual semester this fall. That could be a major domino for college football and its season.

USC provost Charles F. Zukoski and senior vice president David Wright released a letter on Wednesday advising students to take their courses online and reconsider living on or near the campus this semester:

Given the continuing safety restrictions and limited densities permissible on campus, our undergraduate students primarily or exclusively will be taking their courses online in the fall term, and on-campus housing and activities will be limited. While not what we hoped, we are now recommending all undergraduates take their courses online, and reconsider living on or close to campus this semester. We are continuing with limited in-person, on-campus activity because we believe we can keep students, researchers, staff, and faculty safe with our low-density plan.

Given the risks that come with a student body returning to campus, it’s a notable move from USC with the college football season fast approaching.

The letter notably stops short of saying no students will be allowed onto campus. Instead, it says undergrads will “primarily or exclusively” take courses online, on-campus housing will be limited and all of them are recommended to stay off campus. The lone mention of athletics is that student-athletes will be given priority alongside students requiring in-person education for university housing.

Things could obviously change, though, as the semester approaches and the coronavirus cases keep rising. Los Angeles County is being hit particularly hard.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 07: A general view of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before the game between the USC Trojans and the Stanford Cardinal on September 7, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
USC is preparing for a semester with very few students on campus. Will that still be enough to allow for football? (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

USC football players were already returning

USC had already started welcoming back student-athletes before the letter was released, allowing local fall-sport athletes onto campus for voluntary workouts starting last Wednesday, per the Los Angeles Times. No housing was provided for the local athletes however. Non-local athletes and housing were supposed to come on July 6.

The football program even posted a video to commemorate the return just hours before the letter was released.

Only one student-athlete has tested positive for coronavirus so far, per the Times, which pales in comparison to the 37 cases on the Clemson football team alone. The coronavirus is wreaking havoc with football programs across the country, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to see any sort of normal season playing out this fall.

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