UHS experiences delay in updating student COVID-19 badges

Photo of overdue ETang entry pass
Eliana Marcu/Staff
To keep track of students' testing status, UC Berkeley utilizes a color-coded badge system that can be found on each students' respective eTang portal. However, because of a large surge of COVID-19 cases within the residence halls, ensuring that students' badges reflected their quarantine status has not been UHS' first priority, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

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University Health Services, or UHS, experienced a one to two-day delay in updating student badges during a COVID-19 surge in campus housing, which may have caused some students to stay in isolation or quarantine longer than necessary.

Campus utilizes a color-coded badge system for tracking students’ COVID-19 testing status, and students can log into eTang to see the color of their badge, according to the UHS website. Green badges indicate the user has been cleared, yellow means their testing is overdue, orange signifies they have been put into quarantine by contract tracers and red means they have tested positive or must remain in isolation pending evaluation, according to the UHS website.

ASUC President Victoria Vera added that over the past few weeks, the online services offered by the Tang Center have been impacted due to the large volume of users.

“The contact tracing team was extremely busy for a few weeks when the surge hit, and had to prioritize the work that was critical for supporting ill students and measures to promptly contain any spread,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.

The “top priority” of the UHS contact tracing team was to notify people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, address their needs and move them out of residence halls, Gilmore added. The second priority was to identify their high-risk contacts and follow the same protocols.

The third priority of the contact tracing team was to identify and notify household contacts, as well as updating badge statuses, according to Gilmore.

“At times this piece was slightly delayed, but not in ways that would increase infectious risk within the community,” Gilmore said in the email.

Campus freshman Sam Tsang spent two weeks in Foothill after a floormate tested positive.

After her two-week isolation period was supposed to conclude, Tsang said she received no communication from UHS. Had she not advocated for herself, she said she may have been isolated in Foothill for longer than required.

“There’s just been a huge lack of communication,” Tsang said. “It’s been really difficult to try to get into contact with UHS. It takes a lot of advocating on the student’s part. I feel like I had to keep on calling all these different phone numbers.”

As of Wednesday, Tsang’s badge was still orange, but the badges of others on her floor were back to green, she added.

Students with orange, red or yellow badges are not allowed to enter dining halls and must pick up food. Tsang, however, said having an orange badge has not significantly impacted her daily routine. She has been keeping to herself, spending time in her room in Unit 1.

According to Vera, health ambassadors around the units check badge status before letting students enter.

“It has not made much a difference generally in the day-to-day life in the Unit,” Vera said in an email. “If anything it has just made getting into spaces take a couple of minutes to seconds longer.”

Tsang said a COVID-19 surge in campus housing was not unexpected during the pandemic, but she felt more could have been done in preparation.

Vera added that campus needs more clear communication when implementing new protocols, as there has been much confusion.

“This work (of updating badges) is now caught up,” Gilmore said in the email. “UHS is recruiting more contact tracers just in case there is another surge.”

Contact Lauren Good at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @lgooddailycal.