UW, Public Health – Seattle & King County responding to coronavirus cases in Greek system

The University of Washington and Public Health – Seattle & King County continue to respond to a cluster of cases among residents of Greek houses north of the Seattle campus, and their close contacts.

UPDATE on 7/5:

As of July 5, at least 112 fraternity house residents have tested positive for COVID-19. In total, at least 121 UW students are confirmed to have tested positive in the Greek Row outbreak. The nine additional students who tested positive were close contacts of the residents, but do not live in the houses.

The Interfraternity Council, a student-led governing board for UW fraternities, most recently reported on July 3 that at least 117 residents living in 15 fraternity houses have self-reported that they tested positive. The University continues to conduct its own testing and verification of cases, which may account for a discrepancy in reported cases.

The official, confirmed COVID-19 cases are updated by UW Environmental Health & Safety on this webpage. Note that the total case numbers reflect only the official case reports, and not the total number of cases self-reported by fraternities.

The UW Medicine popup testing site that was set up this past week near Greek Row has conducted nearly 1,300 tests as of this weekend. Residents of Greek houses and others in the community have also sought testing at City of Seattle drive-up sites, Hall Health and UWMC-Northwest.

UPDATE on 7/3:

As of July 3, at least 89 fraternity house residents have tested positive for COVID-19. In total, at least 93 UW students are confirmed to have tested positive in the Greek Row outbreak. The four additional students who tested positive earlier this week were close contacts of the residents, but do not live in the houses.

The Interfraternity Council, a student-led governing board for UW fraternities, reported July 3 that at least 117 residents living in 15 fraternity houses have self-reported that they tested positive. The University is still collecting and verifying the status of these cases, and this number might not capture all positive cases.

The official, confirmed COVID-19 cases are updated by UW Environmental Health & Safety on this webpage. Note that the total case numbers reflect only the official case reports, and not the total number of cases self-reported by fraternities.

The UW Medicine popup testing site that was set up this past week near Greek Row had tested more than 900 people as of Wednesday evening. Another 300 to 400 likely were tested on Thursday, though the University is still awaiting a final count. Residents of Greek houses and others in the community have also sought testing at City of Seattle drive-up sites, Hall Health and UWMC-Northwest.

UPDATE on 7/2: 

As of July 2, at least 62 fraternity house residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, four students who are close contacts of the residents, but do not live in the houses, have tested positive. In total, at least 66 UW students are confirmed to have tested positive in the Greek Row outbreak.

The Interfraternity Council, a student-led governing board for UW fraternities, reported that at least 105 residents living in 15 fraternity houses have self-reported that they tested positive. The University is still collecting and verifying the status of these cases, and this number might not capture all positive cases.

The official, confirmed COVID-19 cases are updated by UW Environmental Health & Safety on this webpage. Note that the total case numbers reflect only the official case reports, and not the total number of cases self-reported by fraternities.

ORIGINAL POST on 6/30:

Several dozen students living in fraternity houses north of the University of Washington’s campus have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days. This is concerning and reminds us that outbreaks can quickly spiral, said Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, which is involved in the response to the outbreak.

As of June 30, at least 38 students living in 10 fraternity houses have tested positive. Public Health – Seattle & King County is leading the response, in coordination with the University, and is currently making contact with affected students. Positive case numbers will be updated here.

All of the Greek houses are independent organizations, governed by national boards for each fraternity and sorority.

“While we were pleased to see most of the houses had previously taken measures to reduce resident capacity by up to 50% this summer in response to COVID-19, those measures are not sufficient without vigilant, daily preventive measures, such as wearing face coverings, physical distancing and hand hygiene,” Gottlieb said.

The student-run Interfraternity Council and the UW’s Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life are coordinating with UW Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), UW Medicine and local public health officials to ensure Greek residents and others who frequent the houses are engaged in active containment of the outbreak.

UW Medicine has set up a testing facility on campus within walking distance of the Greek houses. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for students living in Greek houses or apartments nearby to get tested.

Leaders from the affected fraternities report that students who have tested positive or with COVID-like symptoms are isolating in their rooms, and none have been hospitalized or reported severe symptoms of the virus.

Currently, there are about 1,000 students living in 25 fraternity houses in the neighborhood north of campus. The residents of the houses are being asked to quarantine or self-isolate, which means that those who have tested positive for COVID-19, those who have symptoms, and those who may have been exposed but are not showing symptoms are staying in their houses.

“What is occurring north of campus provides lessons for students as they consider their return to campus this fall. If everyone does their part to keep each other safe, we can continue to engage with one another and with our studies in the University environment by wearing face coverings and remaining physically distant,” Gottlieb said. “If we don’t, measures such as what are now required on Greek Row will be inevitable. My sense is all students want to return to some sense of normalcy, so I urge all of us to follow public health guidelines so we can do just that.”

Students who live in or near Greek houses should contact the UW Environmental Health & Safety Department (covidehc@uw.edu) if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or suspect they have been infected.

As a reminder, public health officials offer this guidance during the pandemic:

  • Wear a face covering in public spaces
  • Keep 6 feet of distance from other people, whenever possible. Outdoors is better than indoors
  • Wash or sanitize your hands frequently

More information is available on the University’s COVID-19 website.

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