Hundreds in quarantine, after positive cases are traced to UW-Madison fraternities, sororities

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 10:19 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Hundreds of UW-Madison students are quarantined after positive COVID-19 tests were traced back to their fraternity and sorority houses.

Wrapping week one of classes, the university announced that nearly 40 students tested positive for COVID-19. Scattered across nine fraternities and sororities, the students were told to isolate, as the other members of their chapter homes were told to quarantine.

NBC15 obtained the letter sent to about 420 students Friday. It wrote: “Unfortunately, we are seeing a growing number of positive cases in the IFC and PHA communities, including in your chapter.”

The letter directed the students, “In coordination with the university, Public Health Madison & Dane County is ordering your chapter to fully quarantine all live-in members (who have not tested positive) for a minimum of 14 days, starting immediately.”

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the live-in members of the following chapters have been ordered to quarantine:

1. Alpha Chi Omega

2. Alpha Phi

3. Pi Beta Phi

4. Kappa Kappa Gamma

5. Chi Psi

6. Delta Chi

7. Phi Gamma Delta

8. Sigma Alpha Epsilon

9. Theta Delta Chi

Logan Davis, who belongs to a fraternity not affected by the order, said, “I really don’t believe the university thought it wouldn’t spread by bringing 40,000 kids back to campus.”

Sam Leibner, a member of another unaffected fraternity, said he had not heard of parties so far, adding, “It’s tough when you’re living in a house with 50 people. One person can ruin it for everybody.”

Non-compliant students could face university sanctions, including suspension, on top of a court order or a fine of up to $10,000.

“I don’t think necessarily we should all be grouped together,” Leibner said. “There are certain kids our age doing irresponsible things, but then there’s also way more people doing the right thing and I think that gets overlooked.”

Director of Public Health Janel Heinrich said from the last four days, 52 percent of new coronavirus cases in Dane County are connected to the UW.

Heinrich explained, “We’re bringing people together to live in congregant settings who are more likely to socialize in large groups, have not demonstrated that they are practicing the same things as the rest of our community by keeping their circles small.”

Public Health’s fears go beyond the fraternities and sororities.

“The UW is not an island in our community,” Heinrich said. “That’s the thing we are most concerned about—that there’s illness that’s happening on campus and there’s illness that’s happening off campus. We all need to do our best.”

According to the letter sent to affected chapter members, the university will address questions in a virtual meeting on Saturday.

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