‘Obviously they want to party’: 9 UW-Madison Greek houses placed on quarantine following outbreak

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Public Health Madison & Dane County announced Friday a mandatory 14-day quarantine for members of nine UW-Madison fraternities and sororities who live in off-campus chapter houses.

According to a news release, the nine chapters have roughly 420 members. Since the university’s first day of in-person classes on Wednesday, 38 of those members have tested positive for the Coronavirus.

“I think it’s kind of smart,” fraternity member Alexander Hagerep said. “I mean, you should take the actions to get rid of coronavirus as much as we can.”

“Our goal is to stop any further spread of the virus among our students and the broader community,” Executive Director of University Health Services Jake Baggott said. “We’re working closely with county health officials, student leaders, chapter advisors, and the housing corporations that own the chapter houses to address this quickly and thoroughly.”

Any chapter members who have tested positive for the virus will be told to isolate. All other chapter members will be required to be tested for COVID-19 at a university testing site on Tuesday.

For some students, the outbreak throughout Greek housing is no shock.

“Drinking is a very big part of that culture,” said Senior Emerson Boettcher. “You tell them ‘You can’t do this at all,’ but every person who was a part of that culture will still be returning … there’s no way you can expect that plan to be successful.”

On Thursday, Boettcher posted a photo outside a local bar, which showed a line of students out the door. “Thirsty Thursday, in a pandemic,” read the caption.

“It’s just a disappointment,” Boettcher said.  “I came here to be a student primarily. People who live here and call this place their actual home are stuck here, and they’ll bear the results of people going to Wando’s and not distancing or people going to UU and not distancing.”

Public health officials said that a violation of isolation and quarantine orders could result in a court order for involuntary quarantine and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Students could also face university sanctions if they don’t follow the order.

Hagerep says while his house is not impacted by the quarantine, he would stay inside if necessary.

“We all talk about it,” he said.  “I definitely think we should do something about. Obviously, [my brothers] want to party.”

Chapter members who tested positive for the coronavirus within the last 90 days and no longer need to isolate will not be required to test or quarantine.

“We are committed to addressing concerns and risks quickly in order to keep everyone in our community as safe as possible,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor said. “Our students’ commitment to following public health directives is an essential part of that effort.”