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This is what quarantine sounds like with 150 positive cases on Greek row

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One month ago, a redditor made one of the first of many posts complaining about partying on Greek row. The news of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus broke almost exactly two weeks later. 

“What can I say, I saw it coming,” the redditor commented. 

As of July 27, there have been 151 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in fraternities, which are operating at a reduced capacity of about 1,100 residents across 15 houses.

Though Interfraternity Council (IFC) president Erik Johnson outlined clearly how the community is working to manage the spread, the continued noise and activity level leaves non-fraternity neighbors unsure if new guidelines are being adhered to. 

“It kind of feels like you’re in a group project: the people who are social distancing are actually doing the work,” non-Greek resident of the neighborhood Van Chung said. “And then the people who aren’t, are almost sabotaging the whole thing.” 

Let it be noted that sound, no matter how excessive, is not an automatic indication of partying or breaking quarantine. The loudest house may in fact be the safest, while the quietest could be the most dangerous.

“I don’t exactly know when the music has been party music and when it’s just been ambience,” Chung said of the music that has become a constant in her neighborhood since the beginning of summer. 

If the fraternities are following the hard-to-enforce rule against guests, the noise — despite it keeping neighbors up at night — should be in compliance with health guidelines. In fact, Chung reports she has not seen groups of more than six or seven gathering outside of Greek housing in her neighborhood. 

“If they’re sharing the same room in their facility … they’re hanging out in their dining room, for example, that’s fine, because they’re all living in the same household together, and they’re taking all the necessary precautions,” Johnson said.

The noise and activity level recorded is not prevalent throughout the entire Greek community. According to a survey of noise activity on Greek row by The Daily, both music and voices could be heard from outside seven of the 15 operating houses on the nights from July 16 to July 19.

For now, the IFC is not disclosing any identifiable information about the positive cases, including which houses have come in contact with the virus. 

“If a UW Student is interested in determining if they have been exposed at a specific chapter, we would advise them to reach out to Public Health for Seattle and King County directly,” Johnson said in an email. 

The Daily reached out to the presidents of the seven fraternity chapters recorded in the survey. Three — Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Theta Delta Chi — responded via email but declined to make formal statements. Four did not respond, following a directive from Johnson, who instructed presidents of individual chapters to redirect emails from The Daily to him. 

In a phone call, Johnson also suggested that individuals report any suspected violations of IFC policy or state law to him via email.

The issue is also not limited to recognized fraternities. Throughout the neighborhood, quieter and smaller gatherings have taken place at houses unaffiliated with UW Greek life. As county guidelines loosen to allow for gatherings with five people outside of households, some of these get-togethers may be perfectly in bounds. 

While earlier in the weekend there was activity on Greek row that may have inspired more complaints, the night of July 19, besides the occasional ambient music accompanying small group outdoor activity, was quiet. 

“It’s not all ragers and intentionally sneezing on people,” Chung said. “I don’t think they’re terrible people, but just a little more awareness of what’s going on would be appreciated.” 

Editor-in-Chief Mac Murray contributed reporting to this article. 

Reach reporter Hannah Krieg at Twitter: @Hannah_krieg

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