The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Isla Vista and the UC Santa Barbara community each reached double digits this week –– now at 14 confirmed cases in Isla Vista and 12 confirmed cases from UCSB –– amidst Santa Barbara County’s reopening and statewide spikes of infection.
Five participants in a campus research study focusing on asymptomatic cases of coronavirus tested positive for the virus, Chancellor Henry T. Yang announced in a campus-wide email on June 27. Four of the five confirmed cases are UCSB students, three of whom live in I.V. The university has “no information on the details” of the fifth case, Yang said in the email.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) is responsible for contact tracing for individuals with confirmed cases of coronavirus; the five cases confirmed in the research study have been referred to SBCPHD. It is unclear whether the three cases of coronavirus among I.V. residents announced by Yang overlap with three of the cases recently confirmed by Santa Barbara County.
Santa Barbara County confirmed I.V.’s first case of coronavirus on March 30. Over two months later, the county confirmed the second case of coronavirus in I.V. on June 9. In the 17 days following, the confirmed case count rose by 12, with four new cases announced on June 26 alone.
In Santa Barbara County, the total case count stands over 2,700 as of June 26; California’s number of confirmed cases tipped over 200,000 this week. The nation’s confirmed case count is around 2.5 million, or 25% of the world’s confirmed cases, which passed a grim milestone this week of over 10 million cases.
Despite the recent spike in cases across the county, the dine-in reopening of I.V. staples like Bagel Café and Sam’s To Go as well as downtown restaurants and businesses has been underway since late May. On June 26, the county gave the go-ahead for nail salons, tattoo and piercing shops, esthetician services and more to reopen. But the following day, state officials recommended the closure of bars in Santa Barbara, along with seven other counties in the state; Gov. Gavin Newsom also forced the closure of bars in seven additional counties.
On the same day, the state public health department placed Santa Barbara County on its “watch list” due to an increase in hospitalization in North County.
UCSB announced its first cases in its community on April 7. Since then, UCSB confirmed 11 additional cases of coronavirus in the university community; the five cases announced in Yang’s June 27 email, one case in a student moving out of their dorm in April, a total of three Dining Services workers –– two announced in early June, another in mid-June –– and a campus researcher announced on June 20.
“Although the cases do not appear to be related, the research indicates that the disease is becoming more widespread in the surrounding community,” Yang said in the June 27 email.
With more students expected to return to UCSB and Santa Barbara City College over summer and fall, “we can expect that the cases in our campus community and in Isla Vista will continue to increase” Yang said in the email.
The increase in confirmed cases in the community follows a statewide trend of increasing infections, which health officials attribute to community spread while reopenings roll out across the state.
Earlier this month, UCSB officially announced its outline for a hybrid fall quarter, and the majority of classes will be conducted through remote instruction.
Meanwhile, the university is undergoing “extensive planning in anticipation that we will be allowed to resume some in-person instruction this fall,” Yang said. The planning includes “development of a testing program, requiring face coverings on campus, physical distancing practices, cleaning and disinfection protocols, the installation of hand sanitizing stations, and isolation accommodations for students who test positive, among others,” Yang said.