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Red badge, green badge: Students report Health Check confusion on campus

Feb. 3, 2022, 5:00 p.m.

Stanford students are reporting continued confusion about the rules and protocols regarding the Stanford Health Check, in addition to a pattern of unpredictable changes to Health Check status. The confusion has left many unsure about when a badge is supposed to turn red and what happens if it does, according to students.

The Health Check, a digital tool which indicates whether community members are in compliance with campus COVID-19 protocols, has become a source of uncertainty since students returned to campus for winter quarter.

Individuals receive a green onsite access badge when they have not reported COVID-19 symptoms and are compliant with the University’s surveillance testing program. That means submitting one COVID-19 test per week for vaccinated students and two per week for unvaccinated students. COVID-19 tests submitted through Color or Stanford Health Care are automatically recorded in the Health Check system.

“I guess I just don’t understand what it actually takes to get a red Health Check because I’ve literally broken protocol by skipping a week on accident and haven’t had any consequences,” said Jamie Mitchell, a second-year education Ph.D. student.

Fully vaccinated students have a “permanent green badge,” which means they don’t have to submit a Health Check form every day unless they experience symptoms or test positive, according to a University FAQ. A Health Check is supposed to turn red for students who miss a mandatory surveillance test or test positive.

Students with red onsite access badges may access their residence hall but are not supposed to access dining halls, Row house dining spaces, libraries, recreation centers or most other communal spaces, including many campus buildings.

Some students reported that they maintained their green status by activating a take home Color test, even if they never dropped their sample off to be processed. Meanwhile, other students reported their Health Check turning red if they received inconclusive test results from Color.

“We realize that as state and federal public health guidance for testing has evolved since the start of the year and the emergence of the omicron variant, there have been issues with Health Checks during the winter quarter,” wrote University spokesperson E.J. Miranda. 

Students who contract COVID-19, resulting in a red badge while in isolation, receive a message from the University’s Covid Medical Care Team at the end of their isolation period notifying them that they “can still leave isolation and go to the dining hall with a red badge” while the University works to clear their red badge.

While some students may be able to access dining halls with a red badge, that is not the case at the on-campus gyms. “We make sure that students both scan their IDs and show their green Health Checks,” said Tiara Wilkerson ’25, who works at both the Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center and the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation. “If it’s not green, we can’t let them into the gym.”

Though policies about how to treat red badges can be inconsistent across the University, students said that they have rarely had to deal with a faulty red badge. Both Karina Li ’25 and Lindsey Hasak, a fourth-year developmental and psychological sciences Ph.D. student, reported their Health Checks turning red after missing a mandatory surveillance test.

“Last fall quarter, I missed a test and did have a red Health Check,” Hasak said. “But it was remedied very quickly, as soon as I submitted.”

As the University continues to modify its COVID-19 response, officials plan to share “updated information and guidance about Health Checks” with the Stanford community prior to the spring quarter, according to Miranda.

Nikolas Liepins ’25 is a photojournalist and staff writer with The Stanford Daily. Contact Nikolas at nliepins 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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