Indiana University at Bloomington on Thursday urged students living in fraternity and sorority houses to move out, citing an “alarming” rate of positive COVID-19 tests that marked the latest outbreak in the U.S. Midwest and at a college campus.
The university said on Twitter that positive tests for coronavirus were exceeding 50 per cent in some Greek houses, higher than in dorms, and told fraternity and sorority members to “re-evaluate their current living situation.”
“Based on an increasingly alarming rate of positive test results from continued COVID-19 mitigation testing, IU Bloomington and its public health experts believe Greek houses are not safe given the pandemic conditions,” the school tweeted.
Indiana University, a campus of some 40,000 students, said it lacked the authority to manage the privately owned houses, but hoped Greek organizations and landlords would work with students to help them make new arrangements.
Some students responding on social media accused the school of unfairly blaming the Greek system. Others said administrators should have expected outbreaks where a number of people were living in close quarters.
Major universities have grappled with thousands of students returning to campus for the fall semester, with some imposing online-only learning. New cases have spiked at some colleges that have allowed students to return to class.
New coronavirus infections have fallen nationwide for six weeks in a row but surged in the Midwest. Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting the highest percentage of positive tests, over 20 per cent in each state.
Hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists descended on Sturgis, South Dakota, in August for an annual rally and health experts feared that could further spread the virus. On Wednesday a Minnesota health official said a motorcycle enthusiast in his 60s who had shown up there died of COVID-19.
New cases rose 27 per cent last week in Minnesota and 34 per cent in Indiana.
At least 185,754 have died of the illness across the United States, according to a Reuters tally.
U.S. public health officials and Pfizer Inc said a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution as soon as late October, just ahead of the Nov. 3 election in which the pandemic is likely to be a major factor in whether President Donald Trump wins a second term.