In Ingham County, Mich., home to Michigan State University, local health authorities ordered residents of nearly two dozen fraternity and sorority houses, as well as several other group houses, to quarantine for 14 days after the university reported 160 new Covid cases last week.
Members will be allowed to leave only for medical care or other necessities that can’t be delivered. Violations will constitute a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of up to $200, the order, from the Ingham County Health Department, said.
“While we know many students are doing the right thing, we are still seeing far too many social gatherings in the off-campus community, where individuals are in close contact without face coverings,” Mayor Aaron Stephens of East Lansing said on Saturday of the order.
The issue is likely to get only more complicated as schools in the Big Ten, including Michigan State, consider playing football this fall.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is also a part of the Big Ten and had a sharp uptick in cases last week, local health authorities ordered all Greek organizations with one or more cases among their live-in members to quarantine. The order applied to almost two dozen organizations. The university also paused all in-person instruction for two weeks and ordered students in two residence halls to quarantine and get tested.
While there is no comprehensive data on outbreaks in Greek houses around the country, a few states have tracked clusters linked to fraternities and sororities. Kansas has reported active clusters of cases in seven fraternities and sororities at Kansas State University, including one fraternity in which 19 people have been infected. Colorado has identified a cluster of eight confirmed and five probable cases among people who attended events at the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Colorado State University. And Michigan has identified several outbreaks in Greek housing at Michigan Technological University.
While they grapple with current outbreaks, universities are also taking steps to prevent future ones. In recent days, several universities, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have announced that they are canceling spring break, when students often travel to places like Florida and spend a week partying.