At Least 45 People at USC's Frat Row Test Positive for COVID-19, Likely Due to July 4 Party

Dr. Sarah Van Orman, USC's chief student health officer said "a significant number of the cases were associated with four fraternity houses"

University of Southern California. Photo: Richard Vogel/AP/Shutterstock

At least 45 people living at the University of Southern California (USC)'s fraternity row have tested positive for COVID-19, according to health officials.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the results while investigating a coronavirus outbreak within multiple fraternities at the Southern California campus, ABC News reported.

Dr. Sarah Van Orman, USC's chief student health officer, told the Los Angeles Times that the outbreak was associated with four USC fraternity houses — many of which were located on 28th Street, where several of the university's fraternities are based — but did not identify which ones were involved.

Officials from the health department also said in a statement to ABC News on Thursday that they believe the outbreak may be linked to "a large social gathering" on July 4.

"As a reminder, gatherings of people from different households are prohibited under the Health Officer Order in place," they said, according to the outlet. "These are high-risk situations where COVID-19 can spread quickly to many people. Those people, even if they are asymptomatic, can then spread it to their household, which may include someone who becomes seriously ill or who may die."

USC. Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty

USC's most recent COVID-19 report indicated that 2,909 tests had been completed at USC Student Health with 5.4 percent of students (approximately 157 students) testing positive for the virus.

Initially, USC said on July 9 that "a cluster of 15 positive cases of COVID-19" were reported on 28th Street. However, a spokesperson for the university confirms to PEOPLE that those numbers have since risen.

Though campus officials have urged students to take essential precautions on campus and at home — such as using face coverings, practicing frequent hand hygiene, and self-isolating from others if experiencing symptoms — Van Orman said it's been particularly difficult to enforce these when the outbreaks occur off-campus and at sites that aren't controlled by USC.

"Unless all of us understand that right now our only tools are physical distancing and wearing masks, we’re going to continue to have devastation, not only in terms of the economy, our learning, our academics, our jobs, but people dying," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Each of us have to decide what we stand for. Frats need to do that as well."

"Gatherings are a huge issue. Whether that’s at a church or a fraternity, that’s what we’re seeing: People get together, and if you have 20 or 30 people in the room you can quickly have half of them infected in one gathering," she added to the outlet.

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Van Orman also noted that it was unclear whether the outbreak affected fraternity members, as they often rent out their rooms during the summer.

According to a July 1 letter to the campus community, USC is planning to instill a mix of remote and in-person classes for the Fall 2020 semester.

Campus officials are recommending that all undergraduates take their courses online and reconsider living on or close to campus in the fall. They are also planning to limit on-campus activities, with a predicted 10-20 percent of classes conducted in-person.

As of Friday, there have been over 4.5 million cases and at least 152,431 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In California, at least 494,269 cases and 9,009 deaths have been reported, according to the Times.

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