Greek life reflects on COVID-19 response after tough semester
December 17, 2020
Members of Greek life at the University have been taking precautions to ensure that their contribution to the spread of COVID-19 on campus remains low, but have still been affected by the pandemic.
According to University data and estimates obtained by Illinois Newsroom, about 37% of students living in fraternities and sororities tested positive for the virus this semester, compared to 13% of all undergraduate students.
Individual sororities and fraternities on campus have different rules and procedures to follow in order to help limit the spread of the virus that vary from house to house.
Kappa Kappa Gamma, a sorority at the University, had strict precautions in place last semester with only four girls who tested positive for COVID-19 out of roughly 40 living in the house, according to Karley Crady, the director of risk management at the sorority and a junior in the College of Media.
Crady talked about how the sorority implemented measures such as multiple temperature checks and building access status checks on a weekly basis. She also said she reminded their chapter about the importance of being a “proactive member of society” since “there are a lot of eyes on Greek life.”
As risk manager, Crady talked about how her and the housing director of the sorority would also give information regarding the new guidelines. Masks are required in common areas, individuals can’t eat in the kitchen and are encouraged to steer clear of social gatherings.
Despite these efforts, the sorority still had a positive case of COVID-19 early on in the semester. Everyone in the house had to self-quarantine and the girl who did test positive was isolated from the rest of the girls. They were able to contain the spread of the virus and this was their only case during that period of time.
“We just wanted to ensure that if any of us did have it, we didn’t spread it and to keep us protected in that moment,” Crady said.
Later on in the semester, Crady said a similar situation occurred, but three girls tested positive. They handled it with a quarantine and isolation, which helped stop the spread of the virus at three girls.
Alicia Boryszewski, incoming president of Kappa Kappa Gamma and a sophomore in ACES, says the sorority plans on reinforcing the same guidelines next semester as well as working in accordance with updated protocol.
Brian Schwab, a member of the fraternity Phi Delta Theta and a sophomore in GIES, said his fraternity has been following similar guidelines of not being able to eat in a common area and moving lots of social events such as the rushing process to virtual events.
Schwab himself tested positive for COVID-19 early on in the semester. He immediately isolated himself and the entire fraternity quarantined for two weeks.
“I wake up one morning, check my email, see the email and find out I am positive. My roommate wasn’t there when I got it, so I just packed my stuff up and went upstairs to an extra bed with a fridge,” Schwab said.
Everyone in the house was asked to test right away and his quick reaction to isolate and quarantine for two weeks led to nobody else in the house testing positive those next two weeks.
Two weeks after everyone finished quarantining and Schwab tested negative, another fraternity member at Phi Delta Theta tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed to somebody else with COVID-19 outside of the house. The person who contracted the COVID-19 also isolated themselves. Yet, the COVID-19 spread through the house and infected around 20 members, according to Schwab. Because of limited isolation spaces, some fraternity members had to go to hotels to isolate themselves.
Schwab said he has “no idea” what was different about the first situation when the virus didn’t spread as opposed to the second situation when the virus did spread throughout the house. He said he doesn’t know what changed the second time someone was positive.
During and following the exposures to the virus, Schwab said the fraternity followed protocol and tried not to be any more lenient than they were before the exposures.
“Once everyone got it, we were still diligent about testing multiple times a week and not going out as much,” Schwab said.
As for next semester, Schwab says that Phi Delta Theta plans on maintaining the same guidelines they implemented this semester while also following any updated guidelines from the University, similarly to Kappa Kappa Gamma’s plans.