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Mississippi ties spike in coronavirus cases to fraternity rush parties

Mississippi has 381 new cases of coronavirus, quite a few of which link back to fraternity parties, the state health officer said.
University of Mississippi Campus
The Lyceum, oldest building on the campus of the University of Mississippi on April 12, 2008 in Oxford, Miss.Wesley Hitt / Getty Images file

A cluster of coronavirus cases in Oxford, Mississippi is tied to fraternity rush parties that are in violation of the governor's executive order, a state health official said.

There are 381 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths in the state, Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said at a news conference Thursday. Quite of a few of the new cases link back to fraternity parties in Oxford, the home of Ole Miss.

"We do think they're at the front end or a mid sort of section of a significant outbreak," Dobbs said. "What we've identified so far is that it seems to be related to community transmission and social gatherings."

Dobbs said the rush parties — which are gatherings for current and prospective fraternity members — are violating Gov. Tate Reeves' executive order that indoor gatherings where social distancing can't be enforced be limited to 20 people or less.

"And that is clearly not happening in these scenarios," he said.

According to NBC affiliate WLBT in Jackson, 162 University of Mississippi students have tested positive for the virus since June 1.

The public university's Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life said on its website that all fraternity and sorority gatherings are canceled or postponed until further notice.

The office's director, Arthur Doctor, told The Oxford Eagle that any chapter that violates guidance from the school or public health officials will be placed on social probation.

“These decisions are extremely important to the safety of all of our students and contribute to a safe return for our campus community in the fall,” Doctor told the outlet.

Of the new coronavirus cases in Oxford, 81 percent are among people between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Eight percent of the cases are people from out of state, and Dobbs said they have already started seeing parents testing positive.

"So please everyone follow the rules and be careful. The things that we can do to prevent transmission are so very easy," Dobbs said, adding that the resurgence of cases is troublesome for an already strained health care system.