Participation in Fraternity and Sorority Activities and the Spread of COVID-19 Among Residential University Communities - Arkansas, August 21-September 5, 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 Jan 8;70(1):20-23. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7001a5.


Preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), in colleges and universities requires mitigation strategies that address on- and off-campus congregate living settings as well as extracurricular activities and other social gatherings (1-4). At the start of the academic year, sorority and fraternity organizations host a series of recruitment activities known as rush week; rush week culminates with bid day, when selections are announced. At university A in Arkansas, sorority rush week (for women) was held during August 17-22, 2020, and consisted of on- and off-campus social gatherings, including an outdoor bid day event on August 22. Fraternity rush week (for men) occurred during August 27-31, with bid day scheduled for September 5. During August 22-September 5, university A-associated COVID-19 cases were reported to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). A total of 965 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases associated with university A were identified, with symptom onset occurring during August 20-September 5, 2020; 31% of the patients with these cases reported involvement in any fraternity or sorority activity. Network analysis identified 54 gatherings among all linkages of cases to places of residence and cases to events, 49 (91%) were linked by participation in fraternity and sorority activities accounting for 42 (72%) links among gatherings. On September 4, university A banned gatherings of ≥10 persons, and fraternity bid day was held virtually. The rapid increase in COVID-19 cases was likely facilitated by on- and off-campus congregate living settings and activities, and health departments should work together with student organizations and university leadership to ensure compliance with mitigation measures.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arkansas / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • College Fraternities and Sororities / organization & administration*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / epidemiology*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Universities
  • Young Adult