BYU’s COVID ‘campus passport’ allows for easy workarounds

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Screenshots of a “clear” and “not clear” BYU COVID-19 passport for Daily Universe reporter Sydnee Gonzalez taken a few minutes apart. The passport allows individuals to “reset” their passport multiple times a day, giving them the opportunity to switch from a red passport to a green one in seconds.

Students say a lack of enforcement as well as an easy workaround with BYU’s COVID-19 passport program render it mostly ineffective.

BYU requires all students and employees to have a green COVID-19 passport on Utah’s Healthy Together app to come to campus. If individuals are unable or unwilling to download the Healthy Together app, they can print off a paper copy of the passport test or complete one on BYU’s website.

In order to obtain a campus passport certifying their ability to be on campus, individuals must report whether they have any symptoms or if they “are worried (they) have COVID-19.” Individuals are then asked a series of follow up questions.

  • Have you been in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with someone with a confirmed COVID case or who has COVID-19 symptoms?
  • Have you been instructed to isolate or quarantine by a medical professional or a BYU case manager?
  • Are you currently waiting on the results of a COVID-19 test and you are not a random testing participant?

If an individual reports any symptoms, says they are worried they have COVID-19, or answers yes to any of the questions, they’re not cleared for campus and are given a red passport.

However, if individuals scroll down to the bottom of their passport screen, there’s a button that says “reset passport.” Pressing this button allows individuals to retake the assessment and gives them the opportunity to change a red passport to a green one.

And that’s for the people who actually use the app. In a poll on The Daily Universe’s Instagram account about students’ experiences with the passport, dozens of students reported never or rarely filling out a passport. The majority of students who reported filling out the passport daily or regularly said they had never been asked to show it on campus.

Student responses to the poll included:

  • “I forget to fill it out 90% of the time, mostly because I’ve only been asked for it once.”
  • “Nope don’t use it cause they don’t require it.”
  • “If I felt like someone was gonna ask for it I would.”
  • “I don’t take it unless I think I have symptoms.”
  • “I have never been asked for it and that scares me.”

Bioinformatics freshman Will Wardinsky said he has been asked to show his passport, but only at the student gym in the Smith Fieldhouse and while picking up a package in Heritage Halls.

“If I hadn’t been asked, I’d kind of be questioning BYU’s ability to be on top of this situation,” Wardinsky said.

Although the passport system increases his comfort level while on campus, he said he worries some students could cheat the system. “There’s always a chance that students could be taking the results, just clicking no for everything, even if they do have symptoms, and then continuing to go to class … but I don’t really know how BYU could improve that.”

BYU’s website states that individuals are required to show a green passport before accessing certain in-person campus services:

  • Campus Scheduling
  • Center for Service and Learning
  • College advisement centers
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Dean of Students Office
  • Honor Code Office
  • ID Center
  • International Student and Scholar Services
  • Lost and Found
  • Multicultural Student Services
  • Residence Life Offices (Helaman or Heritage Halls; Foreign Language Student Residence, Off-Campus Housing Office, Wymount Terrace, Wyview Park)
  • Student Connection and Leadership Center
  • Student Wellness (weight rooms, recreational facilities and intramural sports)
  • University Accessibility Center
  • University Advisement Center and Academic Support Office
  • University Pre-professional Advisement Office
  • Women’s Services and Resources

The website also says professors and supervisors are authorized to verify that students and employees have completed their daily check-up. Few students reported being asked by professors to show a green passport, but Hannah Arnold, a freshman from Fruit Heights, Utah, said she’s required to do so each time her choir class meets in person.

“The regulations for COVID in the choral program right now are really tight,” she said. “But all of my other classes, I haven’t ever had a teacher ask for it.”

She expressed concern both that students might not be honest when recording their symptoms, especially if they don’t want to miss class, and about the effect a lack of enforcement may have on students.

“Where it’s not actually being enforced or required, I don’t think most people do it every day,” Arnold said. “I don’t even remember to do it every day, even though I probably should.”

As an athlete, tennis player Xenia de Luna is one of the few students on campus who has to show her passport every day. De Luna said she and other athletes show their passports each morning at the Student-Athlete Nutrition Center before they’re allowed to get food as well as before accessing other athlete facilities or receiving treatment for sports injuries. The only other time she’s been asked to show her passport was to pick up a package at Heritage Halls.

She raised concerns that some of the symptoms on the passport could be caused by factors other than COVID, such as fatigue or muscle pain, and that when students realize that reporting one of these symptoms results in a red passport, they may retake the passport quiz and change their answers.

“In my case, if I say fatigue because I didn’t sleep well, it doesn’t mean I necessarily have the virus and then I would change my responses so that I can get my food, you know,” de Luna said.

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