Coronavirus outbreak hits University of Washington fraternity houses, more than 100 students

At least 112 students living in fraternity houses at the University of Washington Seattle campus have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said Sunday.

Nine other students contracted the disease after contact with residents, but do not live on Greek Row.

Most of the students are asymptomatic, Geoffrey Gottlieb, interim chair of the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases and an attending physician with UW Medicine, told the Seattle Times.

Officials are currently trying to determine how the outbreak began, but said close living quarters likely exacerbated the spread.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health – Seattle & King County, told the newspaper that the outbreak is “very concerning.”

“It does make us worry about what might happen this fall,” Duchin said. “We understand there was a lot of socializing, a lot of risk-taking, not a lot of mask-wearing going on…When you do that and you don’t take precautions, you get a lot of COVID.”

Fraternities are still allowed to function under Gov. Jay Inslee’s shutdown orders because households are allowed to stay together, regardless of size.

“A house party is not necessarily a violation of anything,” UW spokesperson Michelle Ma told the Seattle Times. “For SPD to act, it would need to be creating a disturbance, such as noise violations after a certain hour.”

Colleges and universities around the country have struggled with plans for the fall semester as the coronavirus pandemic continues, as even worsens in some area.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce said in late June that students will be welcomed back on Sept. 30 for a “hybrid approach.”

“We are offering as many in-person courses as possible, prioritizing hands-on courses, such as studio, clinical and lab courses, and courses for first-year undergraduate and graduate students,” she wrote in a letter.

All students will be required to wear masks while indoors or in areas where they cannot properly socially distance.

Anyone living on campus who tests positive will be relocated to a designated residence hall for isolation.

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