The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department confirmed the first case of coronavirus in Isla Vista on Monday evening, as the total number of diagnosed cases within the county went up to 88 — a 20-case jump from yesterday’s count.

The total number of confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County has increased to 88, with one case in Isla Vista. Data Courtesy of Santa Barbara County. Hayley Tice/Daily Nexus

Chancellor Henry T. Yang sent out an email Tuesday afternoon notifying students about the case in Isla Vista, adding that the case was “a previously confirmed case of COVID-19 [which] was found to be located within the boundaries of the Isla Vista community” after the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department began using GIS mapping to identify confirmed cases.

We have no indication that this case involves anyone affiliated with UC Santa Barbara, but given the proximity of Isla Vista to campus, the number of our students who live in Isla Vista, and our faculty and staff who live in Isla Vista or adjacent communities, we wanted to notify our campus community of this development,” Yang wrote.

Yang also added that two people affiliated with UCSB who live together tested positive for coronavirus after one returned from Europe on March 13.

Both individuals have not been on campus and have been in self-quarantine since March 13. They currently remain in self-quarantine off campus and are recovering,” Yang wrote.

At the Monday afternoon press conference, Henning Ansorg, the Santa Barbara Public Health Department public health officer, said the rise in cases in Santa Barbara County had been expected by the department. 

“The increase in numbers is very typical for a virus that spreads quickly from person to person. We expected a doubling of cases within three days and that is almost exactly what we have seen,” Ansorg said. “It is an indicator of just how infectious this thing is.” 

In order to slow the continued rise of cases and mitigate the spread of the virus, Ansorg also emphasized the necessity of social distancing.

“The only definitive factor which makes a substantial difference between the best and worst case scenario is how much community members stay physically isolated from each other. Continuing with our current efforts of social distancing will make all the difference,” Ansorg said.

While Ansorg did not specifically mention the I.V. case during the conference, it was announced about two hours later through the Santa Barbara Public Health Department Twitter account. 

Prior to the confirmation of an I.V. coronavirus case, the Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD) issued a state of emergency in I.V. at its March 24 virtual meeting, strongly urging the county to “to take all necessary actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

“Now that we have a case of COVID-19 in Isla Vista, it is time for Isla Vistans to take social distancing seriously. This is a public health crisis that will affect not just our older folks — it will affect student-aged individuals too,” I.V. CSD Board President Spencer Brandt said in an interview on Monday.

In accordance with federal, state and local mandates ordering social distancing and banning gatherings of more than 10 people, the district also urged Isla Vistans at its meeting to avoid any mass gatherings, including Deltopia — the yearly unsanctioned street party held on the first weekend of spring quarter.

The I.V. CSD postponed its planned alternative Deltopia festival, after UC Santa Barbara announced its switch to remote instruction on March 10.

“I think that if Deltopia takes place, that could be catastrophic for our public health system. Our public resources are almost entirely devoted to fighting this public health crisis right now, at the county, state and all the way to the local level down to us here in Isla Vista,” Brandt said. 

“It would be very, very inappropriate to use this weekend to break the social distancing order and go out and party.”

UCSB, in accordance with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, sent an email to campus organizations on March 12 that discouraged students from participating in Deltopia to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

[Updated: 3/31/20 1:07 p.m.]

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