The Monroe County Health Department did not state plans in a Thursday phone interview to enforce IU’s recommendation to close greek houses as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Monroe County has worked with IU in ordering greek houses to quarantine. Last week, IU made a recommendation for greek students to re-evaluate their housing situation and for greek houses to close.
IU does not have the ability to close the greek houses. Monroe County, however, does.
Kathy Hewitt, the Monroe County Health Department’s public information officer, did not directly answer whether the county would step in to force houses to close. Multiple greek houses have told the Indiana Daily Student they plan to remain open, and those who spoke to the IDS said they expect many other greek houses to stay open as well.
“We are working with students to help them have the safest environment that they can,” Hewitt said. “Part of that is asking them to quarantine.”
Hewitt did not state whether forcing students to move out of greek houses would create a safe environment. Greek housing corporation board members — and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious-disease expert — have said forcing students to leave campus and return to their homes is not safe.
In a Thursday Q&A session meant for faculty and staff, Dr. Aaron Carroll, IU’s director of mitigation testing, said the spread in greek houses concerns him more than any other aspect across the entire IU system.
“We are seeing in some cases that it is impossible to prevent spread,” Carroll said. “I would like all of the numbers to be as low as possible, but we should put our resources where there are issues.”
Carroll said IU has continued to increase its testing of residents of greek houses, since it is still the area with the largest spread of the coronavirus.
In Tuesday’s COVID-19 dashboard update, IU reported a 24.56% positivity rate among students in greek houses over the week of Aug. 31. Greek students living out of the house had a 13.7% positivity rate during that week.
Carroll said the spread of COVID-19 at IU continues to be largely in greek houses and communal living. IU is still not seeing as high of rates in dorms — students living in dorms returned a 3.64% positivity rate last week — or in classrooms.
IU released updated testing data for greek houses from the week of Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. Acacia had the highest positivity rate at 80.43% over that week of testing. Last week, half of the 40 houses reported a positivity rate above 30%.
The website lists a total of 798 positive cases for greek house residents since Aug. 19. More than half of IU’s greek houses have had at least 20 positive cases for live-in students since Aug. 19. Acacia, Alpha Chi Omega, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Sigma Kappa and Theta Chi all have more than 35 total cases.
Acacia reported last week to the IDS it plans to remain open and in quarantine.
IU has reported 905 positive mitigation tests, including greek residents, since Aug. 24. Carroll said he does not know of any reported serious cases of COVID-19 thus far.
“I will feel good when we’ve suppressed this into the ground,” Carroll said. “I don’t know if that’s a very real thing in the near future.”