The Monroe County Health Board unanimously passed a review process for greek houses to request an exception for the existing 75% capacity regulation at the Thursday meeting.
This amendment to the existing policy requires greek houses to submit an appeal to Health Administrator Penny Caudill and Health Officer Dr. Thomas Sharp. That appeal would contain reasoning as to why the house could allow more students into the house, and thus go above the 75% maximum capacity.
Sharp, however, said it would be unlikely for him to approve such a request from greek houses.
“I am not inclined to go above 75%,” Sharp said.
The added appeals process does not eliminate the 75% capacity, but it does allow Caudill and Sharp to grant exceptions to that policy.
Board member Ashley Cranor, while voting for the appeals process, does not think any house should be allowed to go above 75% capacity either. She, and other committee members agreed it would be hard for houses to maintain separate isolation spaces if more students are allowed into the buildings.
In its last meeting, the board discussed pressing harder against greek houses disobeying the 75% capacity maximum. Now there is a route for houses to receive approval to break the existing policy even if it is unlikely for a house to get said approval.
The board received a request from an unnamed greek organization to allow students to move back into the house, arguing that enough students in the chapter had recovered from COVID-19 to allow more students into the house.
More than 800 total greek students have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to IU’s data. Of IU’s 42 communal-living houses, 28 had COVID-19 positivity rates over 40%, according to Dr. Lana Dbeido of IU’s medical response team.
The Health Department did not immediately respond to a question from the Indiana Daily Student on what house made the request.
According to the board, the house that made this request said it would move students back into the building without other houses knowing. However, board member Stephen Pritchard said if they allow one house to let students back in, it could never be done quietly. He said, too, if the committee allows one house to break the capacity, then it will have to let every house do the same.
“On the other hand, we’re denying people the housing they signed up,” Touloukian said.
Both a parent and a current member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority told the IDS the house was given permission by Monroe County to have above 75% capacity before members began to move out of the house. The Health Department said it did not know of such a permission being issued.
The Board noted the original 75% capacity regulation did not include an appeals process — until Thursday. Margie Rice, the Health Department legal counsel, said the blanket 75% capacity maximum may not make as much sense as it did compared to when the policy was instituted in late August. She agreed the houses should have an appeals process.
Multiple board members said they would allow more students into the homes if they be in the 90-day period after completing their isolation period after they were infected. They said students will be going home for Thanksgiving within that 90-day period, so it would be OK to let them be in the house until then.
“We think they have immunity,” Caudill said. “But it is not a given.”
The board suggested allowances that might be made now may not still apply for move-in for the spring semester.
Only five greek houses remain under quarantine as of Thursday. Those are Beta Sigma Psi, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi Epsilon. According to IU’s COVID-19 dashboard, new COVID-19 cases and positivity rates within greek houses have continued to drop.
IU representatives at the meeting said they wanted to stay with what’s been working to this point to lower cases in greek houses. Though IU Provost Lauren Robel said IU is not “out of the woods” with spread inside greek houses.
“I encourage that we stay the course for the rest of the semester,” Robel said. “It does make me nervous to think about stepping back from those regulations.”