Fraternity and Sorority life impacted by early quarantines

Soon after arriving on campus, quarantines began to occur due to positive COVID cases. Fraternity and sorority life was especially impacted by this as many members live together in the houses. The sororities and fraternities that have been quarantined this semester are Sigma Phi Epsilon, Gamma Phi Beta, and Pi Beta Phi as of Feb. 11.

“I got to go to one class and then we got the email at ten o’clock,” said Allen Marvel, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Associate Dean of Students Carrie Whittier is the one who notifies the fraternities and sororities that there has been a positive case in the house. 

“So the process is I get notified by the Health Center that we have a positive case. I don’t know who it is because of HIPAA Law, but then I notify all of the residents of the facility via email the quarantine information and details for the fourteen day period from the point of last contact,” Whittier said.

The members who tested positive were removed from the house and placed in isolation in Alumni Hall. The students who tested positive are believed to have gotten COVID before they arrived on campus rather than having gotten it on campus.

Everyone in the house is quarantined in order to be as safe as possible.

“So when my office is notified that we have a direct contact from a positive case of someone who lives in a fraternity or sorority house we then choose to quarantine all of the residents out of that facility out of an abundance of caution,” Whittier said. “So even when they might not have been in direct contact with everybody in the house we know that there was direct contact with some people who would’ve then had direct contact with the others basically.”

Contact tracing is also done so that everyone who needs to be quarantined, is.

“We also do an audit for contact tracing for any out of house members. So if that member had direct contact with any out of house members then they would also be placed in quarantine either in their off campus house that they live,” Whittier said.

All people in the house were also tested right away in order to limit the spread. 

“So right now we’ve tested everybody and we’ve tested them right away because we also wanted to make sure if anybody else was positive that we got them out of the building. In the fall we tested everybody, but we waited five to seven days. So because we have additional testing support this spring we went ahead and tested everybody within forty eight hours,” Whittier said. 

The period of quarantine is two weeks from the date of last positive contact.

“So we told them it would be midnight on the ninth [Feb. 9] at the earliest and if we have another positive test or if we have anything else that happens then it could get extended,” Whittier said. “It’s fourteen days from the last day of direct contact. So if it’s somebody who lives in the house then it would be fourteen days from the last positive contact.”

Students are checked in on by the university while in quarantine or isolation. 

“Then the university has a staff member who connects via email with every student in quarantine and that includes the fraternity and sorority students who are in quarantine as well. To make sure they’re doing ok, did they need anything, can we pick something up for them,” Whittier said. 

The students are also given goodie bags before they go into isolation or quarantine.

“It has some snacks and bottled water and it has a thermometer in it and it has some tips for workout things you can do in your room, some mental health things you can do while you’re either in isolation or in quarantine. So we did realize in the fall that maybe we needed to get students a little something because it’s uncomfortable being in quarantine,” Whittier said.

Once in quarantine those who are on meal plans still get brought meals from dining services.

“We do make our own meals but whenever we’re thrown in quarantine we’re still kind of like residential students. They still bring us meals if people request them,” Marvel said.

One of the rules of quarantine dictates whether or not students can go outside. 

“So on the sorority housing complex side because the women live independently but in community they are expected to stay in their residence. So they can go anywhere inside their building, but they need to stay in their specific building. But not into the basement because that’s a communal shared space, not outside because that’s a communal shared space,” Whittier said. “The fraternities, because they are independent, and they have a property line of theirs the men can go outside out to their back patio.” 

Other restrictions dictate gathering sizes and who can come into the house.

“But restrictions are no non members at the house, no alumni, no off campus guests at your house either. So they’re not allowed to do that. They’re not allowed to have events at the house in general,” Whittier said. “They also all have limitations on the number of people that can be in a main room of the house.”

Marvel expressed the challenges of being quarantined.

“The toughest thing is not getting to see all my other friends who have come back. I was excited, I got to see a few of them on Friday and Saturday, over the weekend, but then we got quarantined,” Marvel said. “Sometimes it’s hard with classes online, with Zoom sometimes, with the teachers you can't really see the board or understand what they’re saying. Sometimes you don’t get the chance to ask questions so that gets tough sometimes.”

But he feels lucky to be quarantined with others. 

“Because I’m with other people in the house so it’s enjoyable, but one time I had to do it by myself and it’s tough and it’s only you, you don’t really get to talk to many people, you don’t see anyone so it’s just a tough time on people’s mental health just being locked away for a few days,” Marvel said.

Whittier provided an update on the quarantined and isolated students.

“I’m thankful that those students are healthy and fine and we aren’t having any major health complications for students. So if we can have students be in quarantine in order to make sure that we’re staying healthy and safe that’s the first priority,” Whittier said.

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