Indiana virus caution urged as IU seeks fraternity closures

MGN Image, MGN Graphics
MGN Image, MGN Graphics

Indiana health officials are warning residents to take coronavirus precautions seriously over the Labor Day weekend, even as new statewide COVID-19 risk ratings show most counties have minimal or moderate virus spread.

Posted: Sep 3, 2020 5:35 PM
Updated: Sep 3, 2020 5:36 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana health officials are warning residents to take coronavirus precautions seriously over the Labor Day weekend, even as new statewide COVID-19 risk ratings show most counties have minimal or moderate virus spread.

Indiana University officials have asked all 40 fraternity and sorority houses on its Bloomington campus to shut down because high rates of coronavirus infections, but say they have no authority to force them to close.

LABOR DAY WARNING

State health officials are urging people to wear masks and avoid crowds during the Labor Day weekend after large gatherings around the Fourth of July contributed to an increase in coronavirus cases during July and August.

Contact tracers have linked more than 3,300 COVID-19 cases to large gatherings and to places such as bars, gyms, hair salons, restaurants and churches, said Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner. One bar has been connected to 34 cases in two weeks.

Box emphasized that the coronavirus can spread quickly in crowded events if people don't wear masks and maintain sufficient distance.

“We saw a surge in patients after Memorial Day and our July Fourth gatherings,” Box said. “I don’t want to see that surge after Labor Day."

Indiana’s seven-day average of new coronavirus infections dropped to about 350 a day in late June but has generally topped 900 since early August. Hospitalizations have gone up by about 50% in the state during that time.

State health officials on Thursday reported seven more coronavirus-related deaths, taking the state’s death toll to 3,332, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases, since Indiana’s first COVID-19 fatality was reported in mid-March.

INDIANA UNIVERSITY ACTIONS

Testing at some Indiana University fraternity and sorority houses found infection rates above 50%, according to a statement released by the school, but university officials said Thursday that they were unaware of any infected students who needed hospitalization. The shared bathrooms and living spaces in those houses make preventing virus spread difficult.

The county health department has already ordered 30 of the 40 houses to quarantine due to the coronavirus. University officials said they can't order the houses to close because they're owned by the fraternity and sorority organizations, but they urged everyone living in them to move out.

“We do not consider, based on our best public health advice, these houses to be safe living environments at this point,” campus Provost Lauren Robel said.

The North American Interfraternity Conference, a organization representing college fraternities, said the IU houses were following public health guidelines.

“Facilities should remain open with quarantine protocols in place to isolate members within chapter houses to minimize further coronavirus exposure,” the group said in a statement. “We believe it is wrong to move students from their current quarantined locations and risk spreading infection to different places in the community.”

About 2,600 students live in the houses or other forms of communal housing. Testing has not found significant coronavirus spread among students living in residence halls or linked to classrooms on the 42,000-student campus, officials said.

STATEWIDE RATINGS

The new county-by-county map available on the Indiana State Department of Health’s website Thursday gives a red rating of high coronavirus spread to only Martin County in rural southwestern Indiana. Seven other counties, including South Bend’s St. Joseph County, Muncie’s Delaware County and Terre Haute’s Vigo County, have orange ratings of moderate to high spread.

The remaining 88 counties received yellow or blue ratings based on the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of tests confirming COVID-19 infections. The map is meant as a guide for school leaders on whether to keep students in classrooms, but some local school administrators have been reluctant to embrace the new system.

INDIANAPOLIS REOPENING

Indianapolis officials announced that bars and nightclubs will be allowed to reopen at 25% indoor capacity starting Tuesday as the growth in new infections has slowed in recent weeks. City officials had ordered them closed in late July, blaming their crowds for contributing to a jump in coronavirus cases among young adults.

The new rules will limit bars to people seated at tables, require them to close at midnight and prohibit dancing and live entertainment.

“The reopening of these venues will only last so long as business owners and customers take their obligations under these public health orders seriously,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “For residents, customers, that means staying at your table and masking up whenever you need to move around.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 110759

Reported Deaths: 3503
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20645758
Lake10172317
Elkhart6321108
St. Joseph600797
Allen5921200
Hamilton4646109
Vanderburgh327129
Hendricks2638121
Monroe236836
Johnson2250122
Tippecanoe218413
Clark210156
Porter203344
Cass19279
Delaware184261
Vigo175722
Madison156575
LaPorte135637
Floyd130061
Howard127063
Kosciusko118717
Bartholomew114557
Warrick111935
Marshall98024
Boone94446
Dubois94018
Hancock90042
Noble87632
Grant86733
Henry75424
Wayne73714
Jackson7319
Morgan69438
Shelby66329
Daviess63927
LaGrange62911
Dearborn62128
Clinton59112
Harrison55624
Putnam5209
Montgomery50221
Lawrence50028
White47814
Knox4769
Gibson4644
Decatur45339
DeKalb44211
Miami4223
Fayette41713
Greene41535
Jasper3802
Steuben3647
Scott35310
Sullivan32812
Jennings30812
Posey2940
Franklin29325
Clay2925
Orange28224
Ripley2788
Carroll26913
Wabash2608
Washington2571
Starke2487
Wells2472
Whitley2476
Adams2403
Jefferson2403
Fulton2302
Huntington2173
Spencer2154
Tipton21522
Randolph2067
Perry20213
Newton17011
Jay1680
Owen1641
Martin1590
Rush1494
Pike1361
Vermillion1250
Fountain1152
Blackford1142
Pulaski1131
Crawford1020
Brown1013
Parke932
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland680
Warren401
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

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