Tech confirms COVID-19 cluster after first week of classes

Tech tower, Bobby Dodd Stadium and the North Avenue Apartments are seen mixed in with the Atlanta city skyline. // Photo by James Messer, Student Publications

Editor’s Note: Earlier today, we received a tip regarding a Greek organization, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, on campus and the organization’s number of reported positive coronavirus cases. The source was believed to be credible at the time, but after publishing the article, we received conflicting information which called the credibility of the tip into question. The section of the report below regarding the number of cases in Sigma Alpha Epsilon is erroneous, but there is a confirmed case of coronavirus within the organization. According to an email sent out by Tech’s Coronavirus Task Force, there is also another confirmed cluster of positive coronavirus reports in a Greek house in addition to Sigma Phi Epsilon. It is yet to be confirmed which exact Greek organization is infected.

On Aug. 22, Tech’s Covid-19 Exposure and Health Alerts page reported 33 new positive cases and confirmed the Institute’s first on-campus cluster. From those cases, 17 belong to the same off-campus Greek house with seven more cases being confirmed the day before. An inside source has confirmed that those 24 positive cases belong to Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp), a fraternity within the Interfraternity Council (IFC). 

The SigEp house, which is located on 5th St. NW, has been converted into an isolation space. Members of the fraternity who have tested negative for coronavirus are relocating for the time being, while members with positive cases who were living inside the house will remain there in quarantine. 

The source affiliated with the organization said that the first positive coronavirus case was confirmed on Aug. 19, with a handful of members within the fraternity showing symptoms. 

This exposure alert came after an email that was sent to the student body the day before on Aug. 20 from the Georgia Tech Coronavirus Task Force, which confirmed there were nine members of the same Greek household with coronavirus. 

“Because the students reported their positive tests to Stamps Health Services, this cluster was identified quickly, contact tracing and notification protocols were enacted promptly, and individuals have been appropriately isolated and quarantined,” the email read. 

The email later praised the student body’s participation in the surveillance testing program, which has made asymptomatic testing easily accessible to students on-campus. 

“We have seen a great response from many in our community, including those in the Greek community, who have shown up to participate in our surveillance testing program as well as practice the behaviors designed to minimize the risk of transmission. Collectively, however, we know we can do better.”

The fraternity released a statement on their Instagram account (@gtsigep) where they addressed the Tech community. 

“For the past several days, we have dealt with a spike in COVID-19 cases among our members. As of three days ago, our house was locked down to non-residents, and we have been working closely with our Alumni and Volunteer Corporation, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Georgia Tech administration to test all other members of our chapter and to isolate those positive members, in compliance with requests from administration.” 

The fraternity’s statement went on to encourage other Greek organizations to be transparent about their positive coronavirus cases. 

“To our fellow Greek organizations – we have reported all positive cases to campus officials, and we encourage other organizations who have not to do so. We identified the majority of our cases through the assistance of Georgia Tech’s Coronavirus Task Force after a smaller spike was identified last week. Now is the time to step up and do the right thing

A separate source who is affiliated with Greek life and wishes to remain anonymous, has revealed that Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), another organization under IFC, is allegedly not reporting positive cases within their fraternity. 

“SAE has 20+ cases of coronavirus and is intentionally not reporting them to the school,” said the anonymous source. 

It is currently unclear whether these alleged cases within SAE are connected to an off-campus party that occurred on the night of Aug. 18 at a bar named Churchill’s, located in Buckhead. 

“They were one of the three fraternities that threw a bar party at Churchill’s.” 

The other two fraternities whose members allegedly attended the off-campus party include Sigma Chi and Beta Theta Pi, with both organizations being IFC chapters as well. The off-campus party was held after the last night of sorority recruitment for the Collegiate Panhellenic Council (CPC). 

“[Bid day] is always celebrated by going out and hanging with the fraternities and tons of parties so that the new pledge classes can all meet,” said the anonymous source.

Students, faculty and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to report their results to the Institute. The form to report positive cases can be found at health.gatech.edu/coronavirus.