MADISON, Wisc., (SPECTRUM NEWS) -- The University of Wisconsin Madison, in conjunction with Public Health Madison and Dane County, is requiring nine fraternities and sororities to quarantine for a minimum of two weeks, after 38 Greek life members tested positive for coronavirus. This was announced to the public on Sept. 4.
The names of the Greek life chapters who need to quarantine are not being released to the public.
UW Madison estimates they have 5,000 students in Greek life. Approximately 1,500 of those students live in their chapter's housing. Collectively among the nine chapters that are yielding positive test results, 420 students are living in chapter housing. Those students specifically are being asked to quarantine.
Anyone who has tested positive in a sorority or fraternity is being instructed by UW Madison to isolate. The school is providing isolation spaces.
This isn't something students can get out of easily.
"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," the university says in a statement.
“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.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 8, all members of the nine Greek life organizations with positive cases, will be required to receive a coronavirus test. All students who live in Greek life housing affiliated with any chapter on campus must also be tested. If a student has tested positive for coronavirus within the last 90 days and is not isolating, they are exempt from this requirement.
According to UW Madison's coronavirus dashboard, 93 student tests came back positive today, Sept. 5, via an on-campus testing program. 16 of those students live in dorms, while the other 76 live in off-campus housing. UW Madison's daily positivity rate sits at 6.1 percent, but their weekly positivity rate is 3.4 percent.
1,643 student tests came back negative today.
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The school confirmed that 59 students were quarantining on campus, and another 59 were isolating on campus.
As of Sept. 4, employees at the university saw a positivity rate of 0.7 percent.
The university says communal living in Greek life housing poses a greater risk for coronavirus to spread, since students share bathrooms and kitchen spaces.
This is not the first instance of a Greek life outbreak.
A university in Washington reported that nearly 120 fraternity members tested positive for coronavirus earlier this summer. The University of Mississippi reported more than 160 positive cases in students and directly attributed them to recruitment. Indiana University has also asked all 40 Greek houses to close after seeing a spike in cases. Sororities and fraternities tested at a 20 percent positivity rate at the school. Not all chapters are complying.
So what is UW Madison doing?
According to their official statement, university staff is going to off-campus housing, including Greek houses, to talk to students about health requirements and conduct policies.
Also on Sept. 4, UW Madison's student government group shared they were not satisfied with the school's coronavirus response and called for change.
For now, it will be partially up to students themselves to keep their campuses safe.