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Essential Visitors and Households

 Andrew Brodhead.

*This message was emailed on October 7, 2020, to all students and to post-doctoral scholars who reside on campus.
Updated January 20, 2021.

Dear undergraduate, graduate and professional students and postdoctoral scholars, 

We are writing today with more information on “essential visitors” and “households” (referred to in some previous messages as “social pods”). Both provide a first step toward resuming some of the social connections and support that have been constrained by county and state health and safety regulations, connections and support we all miss so much.

Although this guidance applies to students who live in R&DE assigned housing, we are sending this message to all students as we understand that a student’s housing circumstances may change over the course of this year.

(We will also send this message to postdoctoral scholars living in R&DE assigned housing. With apologies to postdocs, we will refer to residents as a group as “students” in this correspondence.) 

The Basis for This Guidance

The information we are presenting is based on state and county guidance for institutions of higher education, and our on-going conversations with the county. In recent months, Stanford has conveyed to county officials the desirability of enabling more social interactions when possible, and we are grateful that new guidance includes these provisions.

We would like to thank our colleagues in the schools and departments, and the student leaders (including RAs and CAs) who helped us think through this application of the county’s guidance. We heard and understand that these are imperfect solutions to an extremely challenging set of circumstances brought on by the pandemic, but we hope this is a step in the right direction. University guidance related to households and visitors will evolve as we learn from experience, or as public health mandates change.

How are Essential Visitors and Households Defined?

Essential visitors and households are two unique and distinct ways that students can engage with others. We believe it is important for students to be able to use both of these categories to foster social engagement and support while continuing to keep our community as safe as possible. We have great faith in our community’s ability to follow the requirements described below to help ensure our collective safety.

Essential Visitor

County guidance allows for essential visitors on campus.  This means that students residing on campus may have care workers (home care workers who provide essential services such as health and/or child care), spouses/partners and dependent children visit their campus residences. Students who wish to discuss special circumstances for essential visitors should contact their Residence Dean or Graduate Life Office dean.


A household is a group of no more than eight (8) individuals  within a residential facility or area who want to interact with each other as would members of a household. Students must designate one household for the duration of the quarter. Each student may belong to just one household. Members of a household can socialize together both indoors and outdoors. Members can interact inside a household member’s home without face coverings. Similarly, household members have the privilege of gathering together outdoors without face coverings; however, face coverings must be worn when in proximity to others not in the household.

Apartment-mates, spouses/significant others, and children who live with you are automatically part of your household and count towards the eight-person limit. Friends can be part of your household as long as they reside within your facility or area as defined here

Any household members or essential visitors must also comply with all applicable university policies and the relevant student may be held accountable if they don't.

If a member within the household comes in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if a student within the household tests positive, all household members must follow university quarantine/isolation procedures and Vaden Medical Services guidance, which may include additional testing.

How Do I Register My Household and/or Essential Visitors?

Registration is required for all essential visitors and any household consisting of more than a single dorm room or apartment. We have developed a registration process for each to aid in exposure notification as needed.  Here is where you will find registration information and FAQs.  

  • Registration for Essential Visitors here.
  • Registration for Households here.

When Does This Start?

Students can now begin registering essential visitors and households using the forms provided above. After registration, students may begin to engage with essential visitor(s) and members of their household, as described here. Please keep in mind that if COVID conditions change, the state and county may adjust their guidance, and Stanford will do the same.   

Safety Measures

At Stanford, in order to keep everyone as safe as possible, our approach to a gradual reopening has included putting practices in place to reduce the spread of COVID in accordance with county and state guidance. COVID testing and campus zones are examples of such measures, and students and their guests are required to follow all applicable state and county public health guidance. 

As an additional measure, flu shots are available now at no cost to all graduate and professional students and to all undergraduate students living on campus. Appointments are available here to students who have been assessed the campus health service fee. We encourage students to make an appointment to prevent crowding and provide for physical distancing. Students who have not been assessed the campus health service fee may walk-in to the student outdoor flu shot clinics. A schedule has been posted here. (This paragraph was updated October 8, 2020). 

Support and Accountability Measures 

The Dean of Students Office -- which includes Residential Education, the Graduate Life Office, and our professional and student residential staff -- are here to support and help students as they register essential visitors and create households. The Dean of Students Office also continues to enforce the Campus Compact, which summarizes state and county guidance required of everyone. The compact has been updated to reflect this guidance for households and essential visitors.  Students can report concerns about possible compact violations using this form

The university has sought to provide guidance on the types of behaviors we are particularly concerned about to ensure all members of the community feel safe in their homes and workspaces. In the event that there are violations that need to be addressed, these guidelines offer an outline of administrative actions that may constitute an appropriate public health response. 

We Welcome Your Questions

The best way to reach us is by submitting a Service Now ticket here. Thank you for your patience. This is new to all of us. We are doing our very best to build systems that support what students need to stay connected. Community is everything for each of us, and for Stanford as a whole. We hope these new opportunities for essential visitors and households will be a solid step on the path toward further re-opening our campus.


Mona Hicks
Senior Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students

Cheryl Brown
Assistant Vice Provost for Residential Education

Ken Hsu
Assistant Vice Provost and Director of the Graduate Life Office