By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

(CBS) — With growing concern about the spread of coronavirus in the Greek housing system, Indiana University is recommending that all fraternity and sorority houses shut down. More than half of the COVID-19 cases reported in August come from the Greek system.

“IU and its public health experts believe Greek houses are not safe given the pandemic conditions and the current spread of COVID-19,” the university said. Since Aug. 1, a total of 816 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Mitigation testing since Aug. 24 has turned up 277 mostly asymptomatic cases, which are included in the overall case number.

In Greek housing alone there have been 436 cases reported since Aug. 19.

Due to the nature of communal living in Greek housing, in which there is a high density of residents, shared bathrooms, and a number of common living, sleeping and dining spaces, viruses like COVID-19 easily spread, the university said.

Officials say positivity rates in some houses are above 50% and many houses are under quarantine.  IU does not own the buildings and can only recommend the closures.

“Given the Greek housing structure, avoiding close contact with residents who may carry the virus is virtually impossible. Dorms are not seeing the level of positivity rates that are being found in Greek houses,” the university said.

The university said it expects the national organizations for each house to help students make decisions for alternate living arrangements. IU said it would support the students “to ensure they can continue on their academic journey.” The university provide a breakdown of the outbreaks at each house, which can be found here. 

Several other universities have seen increases in COVID cases in recent weeks.  In the latest statewide numbers, Indiana reported 1,110 cases and four deaths.