Eight Greek chapters at the University of Idaho were placed in quarantine after being identified as COVID-19 hot spots, according to a memo from UI President Scott Green.

“The outbreak seems isolated to fraternities and sororities, but we will increase our general surveillance testing outside the Greek system this week to verify,” Green wrote.

The UI’s positivity rate for tests increased from 4.71 percent to just under 12 percent last week, but tests were targeted to known hot spots on Greek Row.

The number of active positives is 1 percent of the total UI community, including students and employees, Green wrote.

“Our modelers and Public Health tell us that testing primarily the Greek population is not indicative of the overall infection rate, which is likely much lower,” Green wrote.

Toni Broyles, special assistant to Green, told the Daily News that each Greek house has their own set of quarantine rules but she stressed that those who received a positive test are isolating and the rest of the members are being careful.

“The positives are removed from the on-campus housing into isolation facilities or they go home,” Broyles said. “The remaining people are in quarantine until they are tested.”

Broyles said quarantine is not indicative of a large outbreak within a given Greek house but is being used as a cautious response to a modest rise in infection numbers.

Green stated that health officials believe the university’s classroom protocols are working and they have not identified any classroom transmission through their contact tracing.

However, faculty are allowed to teach their courses online this week without additional approvals.

“If data collected through Friday, Oct. 2 drives us to online-only instruction, the recommendation is that it be for two weeks,” Green wrote. “We will update you on our findings on Friday.”

Broyles said the UI has an 8-week plan for conducting general surveillance in a way that reaches a diverse subset of Moscow-based students, faculty and staff up to Thanksgiving break. The hope is to provide a clearer picture of the rate of infection within the campus community.

There were 58 new cases reported in Latah County since Saturday and most of the new patients fall into the 18-29 age bracket.

This is the largest number of cases reported over a weekend period in Latah County, which has now exceeded Nez Perce County in the total number of confirmed cases this year with 453.

On Friday, Gritman Medical Center in Moscow announced the positivity rate of its COVID-19 testing for the seven days prior was 9.7 percent, and three patients with positive tests have been admitted to the hospital for inpatient care.

The hospital’s 14-day positivity rate on Friday was reported as 6.92 percent, indicating a significant rise.

The three hospitalizations were the first reported by the hospital. The number is cumulative, and not necessarily reflective of the number currently hospitalized. That number was not released by the hospital.

The hospital plans to release its testing data weekly — likely each Thursday or Friday.

Whitman County received 69 new positive COVID-19 test results during the weekend and Monday, bringing the county’s total this year to 1,309.

The newest patients include 35 people younger than the age of 20, 32 people between ages 20-39, one man between ages 60-79 and one woman between ages 40-59. All are stable and self-isolating.

The person who was hospitalized last week has been released from the hospital.

There have been no COVID-19-related deaths in either county.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com. Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

Local drivers will notice a new billboard along the Moscow-Pullman Highway that is part of a new public awareness campaign called “Two cities, two universities — one community.”

This is a joint effort by Washington State University and the UI to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging the public to follow safety protocols such as wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, social distancing and washing hands.

As part of the campaign, community members on both sides of the state line are encouraged to show their regional pride with the hashtag #PalouseUnity.

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