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Coronavirus cases climb on UW's Greek row amid outbreak

As of Monday, 137 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in an outbreak on UW's Greek row, which is 44 more than last Friday.

SEATTLE — A COVID-19 outbreak on the University of Washington's Greek Row came two weeks after about 1,100 Greek students returned for summer.

The incubation time for the disease is two weeks, meaning the students started spreading it immediately.

"This has been a wake up call to the community," says Erik Johnson, president of the university's Interfraternity Council.

As of Monday, there were at least 137 cases associated with the Greek row outbreak, according to UW.

Fraternity and sorority houses are privately owned, so the university can only "encourage" members to socially distance. That message isn't getting through to everybody, even with the virus spreading.

"We haven't seen severe symptoms if at all," said Johnson. "Many are asymptomatic. No one has had to go to the hospital, and that can cause some complacency."

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Fraternity houses are encouraged to operate at 50% capacity. Members were told there should be no social events, and Greek leaders pushed the message of responsibility through social media.

"I think everybody now recognizes this is something close to home, and if it's not going to affect us, we could spread it to our families," said Johnson.

But you needn't look far to find people pushing the boundaries of social responsibility.

Students gathered on the deck on the Sigma Chi fraternity house on a sunny Monday afternoon for a birthday party. Initially, most wore masks, but as the party continued most masks came off and social distancing was largely ignored.

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In just a couple of months the parties will be in full swing at UW with some 4,000 fraternity and sorority members alone coming to campus.

The toughest test many students will take this year may be whether they learn the lessons of coronavirus before it's too late.

"This is not something we can pretend doesn't exist," said Johnson. "It's not something we're going to just get over. I think it's something we're gonna have to figure out how to live with and live around."