Georgia Tech Fraternity Member Reflects on Shutdown, Calling It ‘Inevitable’

A member of Georgia Tech’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity who didn’t want to be identified says the lockdown was “inevitable” reflecting on his fraternity house being placed under quarantine by Georgia Tech officials back in August.

 The Sigma Phi Epsilon house was declared an “isolation location” after 26 of its members tested positive for COVID-19. Residents who had not tested positive were forced to relocate elsewhere until they could return safely to normal activities.

 Similar outbreaks occurred at other universities and colleges nationwide as campuses were reopening for the 2020-2021 school year.  

 According to the Georgia Department of Public Health reports, young people aged 18-29 account for a majority of the COVID-19 cases in Georgia — more than 180,000 of the state’s over 863,814 positive cases to date.

 This explosion of cases in young adults, especially college students — who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are playing a significant role in spreading the virus — has the power to reach beyond campuses, leaving older adults more vulnerable. 

 The member said that the fraternity offered virtual meeting options and socially-distanced brotherhood events adding that they “followed guidelines as much as any other fraternity did” before they had their lockdown.

 He said he wasn’t surprised when the number of positive cases among members rapidly increased after stating that the fraternity houses 30 members each semester. With minimal cleaning, up to four brothers per room and communal bathrooms, the house was not made to follow strict COVID-19 guidelines.

 “Looking at any of these Greek houses, none of them are built to be quarantined locations, they’re built to be common spaces,” another anonymous fraternity member said in an interview with 11alive in August. “They’re built to be places that people can congregate.” 

 Following the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, various Greek life residences have been put under quarantine to prevent further spreading, including houses at the University of South Carolina, University of Georgia and University of Kansas.

“You’re never going to get a really strict following of any type of protocol in a house full of rambunctious young men,”

said Katherine Bowman, former personal chef at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house.

As a former nurse, she was “familiar with how isolation protocols worked in regard to communicable diseases,” and did what she could as far as making sure everything they used in the kitchen was single use and disposable.

 Since the outbreak, fraternity members continue to follow already established guidelines. In addition, members are now being tested weekly for COVID-19 in an effort to prevent another lockdown.