New cases of COVID-19 on the University of Washington’s Greek Row continue to be reported nearly a month after a second outbreak began in the community north of the Seattle campus.
The number of confirmed cases has climbed by more than 27% in just the past three days, from 131 cases as of 4 p.m. Friday to 167 as of 4 p.m. Monday, according to the university’s tally.
Infections have been reported in seven sororities and five fraternities in the 45-house system.
The outbreak, which was identified Sept. 11 but first reported Oct. 1, is the second to hit the school’s Greek system since this summer, when 154 students in 15 fraternity houses tested positive over about a month.
The university is not aware of any students who have been hospitalized or have reported severe symptoms.
Classes for the fall quarter began Wednesday, Sept. 30.
Residence halls, which normally house about 10,000 students, have around 4,100 this term, UW spokesperson Victor Balta told The Seattle Times on Saturday. The Greek system population has also been reduced to half capacity in an effort to ward off outbreaks, with fraternities and sororities housing about 2,000 students.
UW has been testing students, faculty and staff for the virus.
The university and the Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network Study, or SCAN study, tested 1,256 Greek members before they moved into their houses and found four positive cases.
The Husky Coronavirus Testing program, which launched Sept. 24 in collaboration with the Seattle Flu study, has tested 2,100 students on the Seattle campus with 1.9% testing positive, according to the university’s coronavirus dashboard.
UW Medicine also tested 1,620 students living in residence halls between Sept. 22 and 25 and found five positive cases.
Students in Greek housing testing positive or showing COVID-19 symptoms are being told to isolate themselves where they are living, Balta wrote on UW’s website.
The university has limited authority over off-campus housing, and fraternities and sororities have long been relied upon to police their own members and activities.
Balta said the UW could impose some sanctions on fraternities and sororities, including rescinding university recognition, “in the event of ongoing lack of compliance.”
But the university hopes to avoid harsh measures, in part because they could discourage Greek students and others from disclosing COVID-19 cases, Balta said. “If there were a fear of sanctions, that could make people hesitant to come forward,” he added. “And that’s what we don’t want.”
Public health officials said last week it’s another sign that people need to remain vigilant about the coronavirus. Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County and a professor in UW’s epidemiology department, said cases in the county were up last week compared with the previous week.
Seattle Times staff reporter Paul Roberts contributed to this story, which also includes information from The Associated Press.