UC Berkeley to check COVID-19 testing compliance for students entering dining halls

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Maya Valluru/Staff
In order to show they are in compliance with campus COVID-19 protocols, UC Berkeley students will have to use an online eTang badge system that assigns colors according to the student’s testing status. The badge system usage follows a notice from UC Berkeley that there has been a surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases in students.

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Students picking up food in UC Berkeley dining commons are now required to show that they are compliant with campus COVID-19 testing requirements.

Beginning Monday, to check for compliance, student employees known as health ambassadors have started to use an online eTang badge system that assigns colors according to the student’s testing status, according to an email from Cal Dining and Cal Housing. Students will be required to use their phones or a provided iPad to show their badges.

A green badge indicates the student has been testing negative for COVID-19 twice a week, and they will be allowed into the dining hall. Those with orange or red badges, or yellow badges after Feb. 8, will have pre-packaged meals brought out to them instead, according to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff.

“Regular testing is an important component to identify cases early so that contact tracing and other measures can be taken early on to help control the spread,” Ratliff said in an email. “At this time, the testing badge system will continue to be used as part of the overall COVID-19 response for the campus.”

Students living in residential halls, however, will not be allowed to enter the dining commons this week because of the campus self-sequester order.

Ratliff added that these students will instead pick up their meals at kiosks outside of their residential halls.

“Students living in residence suites, off-campus housing, or university-owned/affiliated apartments are not required to participate in this self-sequester period and can continue to pick up their food at the dining commons,” Ratliff said in the email. “But service is to-go only regardless of badge status.”

Other COVID-19 safety protocols that dining common staff members have incorporated include sanitizing multiple areas, instructions to frequently wash their hands and gloves for employees when handling meals, according to Ratliff.

Both the badge system usage and self-sequester order follow a notice from UC Berkeley that there has been a surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases in students, with more students being quarantined as a result.

Campus freshman Isaiah Gallegos, who lives in Clark Kerr Campus, experienced the badge system procedure Monday before the self-sequester order. He said he saw the badge system as just a safety precaution and thought it was an important part of keeping employees and students safe.

The self-sequester order, however, came a day later, and students were no longer allowed inside dining commons. This was a measure Gallegos said he understood, though he said the lack of human interaction was “just a little bit disheartening.”

“I don’t think anybody likes to self-sequester, so I’m kind of bummed out about it,” Gallegos said. “But I understand that it’s necessary in order to curve the amount of COVID that we’re getting in a residential area.”

Natalie Lu is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @natalie_c_lu.