The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced on Thursday that 13 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Isla Vista, the highest single-day increase in confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Santa Barbara County confirmed an additional five new cases on Friday, bringing the total count to 74 cases in I.V., 20 of which are currently active.
Half of all total cases recorded in I.V. were reported in the last 17 days, according to a UC Santa Barbara health alert sent to students on Friday afternoon. The recent surge in confirmed cases includes 22 UCSB undergraduates, according to the health alert.
Confirmed cases countywide are also rising. There were 58 new cases reported on Friday, bringing the total number of active cases in Santa Barbara County to nearly 200, the public health department announced.
The true number of people infected with COVID-19 is likely higher, however, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Gregg Hart said at a COVID-19 press conference on Friday.
Technological issues with California Reportable Disease Information Exchange, the system in which all statewide cases are reported and shared with the counties, may have led to a “significant undercount” of confirmed cases across the state, Hart said.
He added that the state hopes the system will be back online late next week. In the meantime, the state public health department is working with counties and labs to revert to a manual reporting system.
Additionally, large gatherings in I.V. could be contributing to the recent spike in cases, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Henning Ansorg.
“Oftentimes, 12 to 15 people [share] an apartment, so social distancing is not really an option under those circumstances,” he said.
Ansorg said he “do[es] not have an explanation” as to why there is a surge now when living conditions in I.V. have remained relatively the same since the beginning of the pandemic.
During previous outbreaks from unrelated diseases in I.V., the county put individuals who had tested positive in nearby hotels to isolate, Ansorg said, adding that the county is “more than happy to cooperate with UCSB” if that becomes necessary.