Story by Erica Hunzinger and Stephen Koranda
Students who live at four fraternities and five sororities at the University of Kansas must quarantine for 14 days.
Using contact tracing, the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health agency said people in the Greek homes were most likely to have come in close contact with some of the 200-plus students who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Chapter members who live elsewhere are not part of the order.
"This is an evolving situation," the health agency said in a news release Wednesday. Initially, it said it was working on a 10th quarantine order, but said Thursday that there were just nine.
The University of Kansas started its fall semester on Monday with in-person instruction, and offered free testing for students, faculty and staff. As of Tuesday, the overall positive test rate was about 1%, but 133 people in fraternities or sororities had tested positive for a rate of more than 5%.
The quarantine order affects KU Student Body President Apramay Mishra, who is with Beta Theta Pi. He said he isn't surprised by the quarantine because of the close quarters of Greek life.
“There’s not a lot of ability to keep separate from people, because so much of the living is communal. Bathrooms, dining," Mishra said. "Just walking by people in the hallway, even if you’re wearing masks.”
However, Mishra is encouraging everyone affected to follow the order to quarantine.
“It’s really about making sure that we’re able to continue in-person and hybrid classes in the format that we have," he said. "What you’re doing is you’re basically proving your responsibility to the greater community.”
KU Chancellor Doug Girod said in an emailed statement that health officials met with Greek organizations to talk about "health and safety strategies." He also said the next update on the number of COVID-19 cases at KU would come Friday.
"As you’ve heard me say many times, our situation is fluid and can change rapidly," Girod said. "We anticipate additional county-issued quarantine orders will continue to impact the KU community in the days ahead."
Earlier Wednesday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Kansas saw an increase of more than 1,500 cases between Monday and Wednesday for a total statewide of almost 40,000.
KDHE tracks clusters of cases, with current data showing seven active outbreaks at universities or colleges; it does not provide anything specific beyond that. But Gov. Laura Kelly said Tuesday that one college student has been hospitalized with coronavirus complications.
Earlier this month, a fraternity at Kansas State University saw 13 members test positive for the coronavirus.
More than 4,000 KU students are part of Greek life, according to the school's official Sorority and Fraternity Life webpage, with 47 organizations and about 20% of the student population.
This story was updated at 4:20 p.m. Aug. 27. Kansas News Service Statehouse reporter Stephen Koranda contributed to this report.
Erica Hunzinger is the news editor for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @ehunzinger.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.