The University of Rhode Island has begun testing Greek life members weekly because of the high number of COVID-19 cases in fraternities and sororities.

During the first week of March, the university reported almost 200 cases of the coronavirus. Of these, 70% were among students in Greek chapters. 

In response, university administrators ordered students in fraternities and sororities to temporarily shelter-in-place in early March. Greek life students were only allowed to leave their residences for grocery shopping or medical reasons and were not allowed to attend class in person.

The university took similar steps during a previous spike in cases among the Greek community in early October. 

Last fall, Greek life students living off campus had over a 9% positivity rate, while the positivity rate for non-affiliated off-campus students was just under 1%. 

Ellen Reynolds, director of health services, said she knows students are tired of the restrictions but hopes the added precautions can keep new cases in check through the end of the semester. 

“Part of the culture in Greek life is that it’s a very social organization,” said Reynolds. 

“The other thing is the Greek houses are very densely populated. I think it was a wake-up call for that community that we needed to tighten some of our behaviors so that we could finish the semester together.”

Athletic teams in competition this spring and nursing students participating in clinical rounds are also testing weekly. Typically, URI students participate in bi-weekly testing.

Reynolds said increased testing among Greek students is crucial in the university’s attempt at maintaining a safe environment. 

And she said students in fraternities and sororities will be tested weekly until university officials feel that the percent positivity rate is under control. 

Last week, URI reported 58 positive cases of COVID-19.