UW, Public Health act to stop COVID-19 spread in fraternity, sorority houses
Given the sheer size of some of these fraternity and sorority chapter houses, some having over 50 household members, we felt that Public Health orders were important to ensure compliance and contain the spread of COVID-19. Below is the news release from UW.
In coordination with UW–Madison, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) today directed members of nine UW–Madison fraternities and sororities with off-campus live-in chapter houses to quarantine for at least 14 days in response to confirmed cases of COVID-19 among their members.
The nine chapters have about 420 members. As of Sept. 2, 38 of them had tested positive. There are approximately 1,500 students living in recognized fraternity and sorority chapter houses out of a total community of 5,000 members.
“Our goal is to stop any further spread of the virus among our students and the broader community,” says Jake Baggott, executive director of University Health Services. “We’re working closely with county health officials, student leaders, chapter advisors, and the housing corporations that own the chapter houses to address this quickly and thoroughly.”
Chapter members who have tested positive will be directed to isolate. The Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life has some spaces where that can be safely accomplished. All other members of the chapters must be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at a university testing site. Members who have previously tested positive within the last 90 days through a verified lab result and are not currently in isolation do not need to test or quarantine. Proof of a previous positive must be submitted to UHS at firstname.lastname@example.org for verification. Lab results do not include antibody tests.
Violation of isolation and quarantine orders may result in a court order for involuntary quarantine and/or a fine of up to $10,000, according to PHMDC. Failure to comply also will result in university sanctions against students who violate a quarantine directive.
In addition, UW–Madison is requiring that all live-in members of the other 38 Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic (PHA) chapters with live-in chapter houses be tested for COVID-19 by the university. Members who have previously tested positive within the last 90 days through a verified lab result and are not currently in isolation do not need to test or quarantine. Proof of a previous positive must be submitted to UHS at email@example.com for verification. Lab results do not include antibody tests.
Communal living in chapter houses, where members share bathroom and dining facilities, poses greater opportunity for COVID-19 transmission, prompting the university and PHMDC to work with chapters and the housing corporations that own the houses to provide guidance and recommendations. In recent weeks university staff also have visited chapter houses and other off-campus housing to speak directly with students about public health requirements and the university’s conduct policies, which apply on and off campus.
“We are committed to addressing concerns and risks quickly in order to keep everyone in our community as safe as possible,” says Lori Reesor, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Our students’ commitment to following public health directives is an essential part of that effort.”