Coronavirus outbreak among students at University of Washington's frat houses
An outbreak of coronavirus cases has been reported at the University of Washington's Greek Row, the school said Friday.
The public university in Seattle said that it confirmed that at least 89 fraternity house residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Four students who do not live on Greek Row but had contact with residents have also tested positive.
The Interfraternity Council, a student-led governing board for the school's fraternities, said that at least 117 residents living in 15 fraternity houses have self-reported that they have the virus. The school said it is still trying to verify these cases.
Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the university's Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, said in a statement that the number of cases is concerning and "reminds us that outbreaks can quickly spiral."
“While we were pleased to see most of the houses had previously taken measures to reduce resident capacity by up to 50 percent 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.
On June 30, when the school first posted about the outbreak, 38 fraternity residents had tested positive for COVID-19. By Thursday, that number had climbed to 62 residents.
Michelle Ma, a spokesperson for the university, said via email Friday that they are not aware of any specific incident that might have caused the outbreak.
"There are no registered parties taking place in the houses at this time, but our reports do suggest that students were having informal gatherings," she said.
Roughly 1,000 students live at the 25 fraternity houses located in a neighborhood north of campus. The houses are in quarantine and residents are being asked to self-isolate in their rooms, Ma said.
None of the students who have tested positive have been hospitalized and the University of Washington Medicine has set up a testing facility on campus within walking distance of the houses, according to the press release.
“What is occurring north of campus provides lessons for students as they consider their return to campus this fall," Gottlieb said. "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."
The Public Health Department in King County said Thursday that over half of the new coronavirus cases are among young adults between the ages of 20 and 39.
"Stay safe this weekend — Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay 6 ft apart. Avoid large gatherings. If you feel sick, get tested," the agency tweeted.