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.
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 local health 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.
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.
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.
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.