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University of Washington virus outbreak continues to grow

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SEATTLE (AP) — A COVID-19 outbreak involving students at the University of Washington’s fraternities and sororities continues to grow with 238 positive cases as of Monday morning.

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University spokesperson Victor Balta said Monday the cases were spread among 16 sororities and fraternities in the 45-chapter system, which is north of the university campus in Seattle.

The numbers are up from 179 cases as of Tuesday last week, and 227 cases on Friday.

Students who have tested positive or have COVID-like symptoms are being told to isolate in their current place of residence, according to the university. At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee expressed frustration about the behavior on Greek Row “that is exposing all of us to great risk.”

“They’ve got to step up and take responsibility for this because these things can just blow up, and frankly they are,” he said last week.

Inslee said his office planned to make it clear that there needs to be leadership from the sororities and fraternities on this issue. On Monday, Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk told The Associated Press in an email that the governor’s policy staff has been working on recommendations related to higher education to further mitigate COVID spread. The recommendations are still being developed for the governor’s review, he wrote.

An outbreak in June infected 154 students in 15 fraternity houses at the university.

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‘Super-spreader’ event led to N.J. college’s COVID-19 outbreak, president says

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About 125 COVID-19 cases at Monmouth University have been traced to an off-campus “super-spreader event” that shut down in-person classes and canceled athletics, according to campus officials.

Monmouth had reported a total of 39 confirmed cases as of Sept. 25. Since then, the number has ballooned to 291 cases, including 166 people who tested positive and are still in isolation, president Patrick Leahy wrote Friday in a letter to students.

In addition to the confirmed cases, 206 students at the private college were identified through contract tracing as being at high risk for contracting the virus. They are required to quarantine as a precaution, Leahy wrote.

About 125 of the cases were traced to a gathering about two weeks ago at a private residence, said Tara Peters, the university’s associate vice president for communications. Not all of those people attended the gathering, but they eventually came into contact with someone who did, she said.

Monmouth’s struggle to contain the virus’ spread underscores the logistical challenges that colleges face in relying on students to follow safety protocols when they’re not on campus.

“Moving forward, we will need 100% cooperation from our campus community in order to resume our fall semester as planned,” Leahy wrote.

Monmouth opened the semester with the majority of its courses online, but allowed indoor dining on campus, where students also had access to the gymnasium and pool. It temporarily shut down those facilities at the end of September and announced it would postpone sporting events through at least Wednesday. All courses were shifted online through Oct. 14.

The university also began offering free virus testing for all students and staff with no appointments needed.

Leahy hopes to make a decision soon on whether to reopen facilities and resume athletics and club activities, he wrote.

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One Alabama university stayed safe during the coronavirus outbreak. Another, 60 miles away, struggled.

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Every student had to test negative before setting foot on campus. Everyone had to use a smartphone application to check for symptoms daily. And everyone heard the same pleas from university leaders: Keep the campuses safe.

More than a month later, 2,375 Tuscaloosa students had tested positive for the virus, 6.2 percent of the student body, according to data through Oct. 1. Birmingham had 109 cases, a tiny 0.48 percent of the students.

Michael Saag, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine and a leader of the state’s testing effort, said he expected some coronavirus cases to surface, but not at the ferocious rate they did.

“I was surprised that it happened so fast,” Saag said.

The staggering disparity at two of Alabama’s large universities illustrates how the coronavirus can barrel through some schools while barely affecting others, even in a state that is considered a hot spot. Experts say it is difficult to pinpoint why Tuscaloosa and other universities faced outbreaks and others did not, but they suspect that enrollment size, the campus culture and students’ ages probably played roles. The result is that students at one school managed to enjoy a semblance of typical college life, while the other campus’s culture was upended.

Saag said he empathized with students because college is about more than going to class; it’s about socializing, networking and exploring life on their own.

“It’s about meeting people and developing really what turn out to be lifelong friends,” he said, calling those impulses “the fabric of what makes the college experience so special.”

“What’s happening is that the virus has invaded that fabric, and to the point where it’s threatening the very essence of what being in college is about,” Saag said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey

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University of Washington and Greek Row struggle to contain COVID-19 outbreak

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As the coronavirus spreads through the University of Washington’s fraternities and sororities, the school contends it can’t do much to contain the outbreak — the second to hit Greek Row since June.

UW and local public health officials have advised the students on safety, met with chapter presidents and had them submit COVID-19 prevention plans. But students who live nearby report big parties that stretch into the early-morning hours and seem to invite further infections — and the cluster is starting to have effects beyond the Greek system.

The current outbreak was identified Sept. 11 with two cases and has grown to 179 as of Tuesday afternoon. The number of confirmed cases has climbed by about 37% in just the past four days, from 131 cases as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the university’s tally.

Two weeks ago, Annie Stephens moved into McCarty Hall, which is on the northern edge of campus and across Northeast 45th Street from Greek Row. She said she could hear loud Greek Row parties every night until Sunday.

“It’s pretty frustrating to hear big parties happening every single night while people in dorms are being told that they can’t even be in an elevator with more than three people,” Stephens said.

UW has instituted outbreak prevention restrictions in dormitories, such as restricting the number of people who can ride in an elevator, closing some common spaces and moving furniture in common places to encourage adequate distancing, said university spokesperson Victor Balta.

“Certainly, the university has more control over the spaces that it operates, such as residence halls and dining areas,” he said.

The university contends its options are limited because the 45-house Greek system is located off-campus, but fraternities and sororities could lose university recognition if there are ongoing compliance issues, Balta said.

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University of Michigan publishes guidelines for responses, strategies in case of COVID-19 outbreak

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ANN ARBOR, MI — The University of Michigan has clarified some factors used when considering responses and strategies related to campus operations during the coronavirus pandemic.



a group of people playing baseball in a park: Students walk through the Diag on the University of Michigan campus on Tuesday, April 22, 2014


© Melanie Maxwell | [email protected]/ANN ARBOR NEWS/mlive.com/TNS
Students walk through the Diag on the University of Michigan campus on Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Campus Health Response Committee monitors several metrics and considers mitigation measures based on those factors, according to a university release. The metrics focus on three areas — disease spread, public health capacity and health care capacity — and use specific information to prompt consideration of actions, the release states.

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There are several situations that might change the university’s campus plans, including:

Five days of sustained test positivity over 20%

More than 70 new cases per million; sustained 10% positivity

Three consecutive days of more than 10% case increase

80% projected capacity for isolation and quarantine housing within 14 days

All metrics are evaluated in partnership with the Washtenaw County Health Department, university officials said.

When those situations are identified, UM leaders and public health experts would evaluate the use of enhanced mitigation strategies, which could include restricting in-person activities, a pause of in-person classes and switching to remote classes for the remainder of the semester, the release states.

One potential strategy is closing residence halls and sending students home, according to the release, but care would need to be taken to minimize the risk of infection to hometown communities.

“Our COVID-19 response metrics detail the range of data around viral spread, public health factors, and health care capacity we are using in our decision-making,” President Mark Schlissel said. “I commend the faculty and staff of the Campus Health Response Committee who worked to develop the metrics as part of their work to support the health and safety of