The Isla Vista Theater, a location previously used as a pop-up testing site by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, became a permanent testing location on Jan. 8. This site will be open from 12 to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and testing will be walk-in only. 

The testing incentive program is currently being funded by the money S.E.A.L and Civic and Community Engagement allocated for Isla Vista initiatives and by $600 from the I.V. CSD’s COVID-19 community education funds. Nexus file photo

The Isla Vista Theater (I.V. Theater) is one of two new testing centers that the Santa Barbara Public Health Department has made available to the public. The other new site is located at the Santa Maria Health Care Center, which is open Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m to 12 p.m., and from 1 to 3 p.m. 

“I’d like to go over and share the good news that we have expanded our testing opportunities here in our county. So, in addition to the three existing community sites in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Goleta, we now have expanded sites in Santa Maria as well as in Isla Vista,” Van Do-Reynoso, director of Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said at a press conference on Jan. 5. 

According to Viviana Marsano, Isla Vista Liaison and Senior Campus Organizations Advisor for Student Engagement and Leadership (S.E.A.L.), 563 people were tested the weekend of Jan. 8 at I.V. Theater. Marsano is currently working to give away items bought at local I.V. businesses to incentivize community members to get tested at I.V. Theater. Marsano attributed the high volume of COVID-19 tests to people returning from travel during winter break. 

“This is a show-up-and-get-tested [center]. We had originally allocated that we would do only 75 tests, but overwhelmingly, because of the community members that showed up, we ended up doing four times that amount just in two days,” Do-Reynoso said at the Jan. 12 Board of Supervisors Meeting. 

While looking at how to increase turnout for testing, Marsano contacted Jonathon Abboud, Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD) general manager, and Marsano and Abboud decided to start an incentivized testing program. 

“The whole idea is students requested in the fall to have the opportunity [to get tested], but then [testing] wasn’t used at the pace that we wanted it to be utilized. So, that’s when we came up with [incentivized testing],” Marsano said.

The testing incentive program is currently being funded by the money S.E.A.L and Civic and Community Engagement allocated for Isla Vista initiatives and by $600 from the I.V. CSD’s COVID-19 community education funds. Abboud said I.V. CSD is assessing additional expenditures based on the utilization of funds from the weekend of Jan. 8. 

According to Abboud, speaking with a local business owner is what provided the inspiration for how to incentivize testing. 

“I was talking with the owner of Deja Vu, [and he was] telling me about his struggles … I had just heard earlier about the need to promote and incentivize testing in January, so [we] just put two and two together,” Abboud said.

The incentives include gift cards and coupons for and from local Isla Vista businesses to support the local economy while increasing testing. According to Marsano, people who come in for a test can receive free yerba mates and raffle prizes. 

“The most important thing for us is how can we do this, and benefit the community as a whole. So we decided we’re going to offer incentives. It has to be purchased in Isla Vista, so that we actually support the local businesses that are suffering,” Marsano said. 

Marsano’s first run at buying from I.V. businesses started with the I.V. Food Co-op where she bought yerba mates to hand out during the first weekend. According to Marasano, S.E.A.L, Civic and Community Engagement, and the Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD) will continue to provide incentives for testing so long as there is funding. 

So far, UCSB and I.V. CSD have contacted Super Cucas, Buddha Bowls and the I.V. Food Co-op about purchasing items, coupons or gift cards to provide at the testing site, according to Marsano. Marsano and Abboud both said they plan to continue contacting more local businesses to participate. 

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Atmika Iyer
Atmika Iyer is an assistant news editor. She's a lover of loud music, loud laughs, and loud prints.