UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Health and Wellness has been hosting COVID-19 information stations throughout Isla Vista since February for residents to learn about local and national COVID-19 developments and obtain COVID-19 safety kits that include masks, hand sanitizers and more. 

Each station is run by a student public health ambassador who is trained to provide basic information relating to COVID-19, including local tier levels, social distancing, mask requirements, campus resources and testing and vaccination sites.

The information stations were first opened in February by recent spring 2021 graduates  pharmacology major Luis Larios and economics and accounting major Nathaniel Nateras, in collaboration with Health and Wellness health educator Jacqueline Ovalle, at the Isla Vista Food Cooperative. The group later expanded their idea to two other locations in spring.  

The information stations have been placed in convenient, accessible locations for all Isla Vista residents. Their spring quarter locations are as follows: I.V. Food Co-op on Monday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m, Starbucks Plaza on Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Little Acorn Park from Thursday to Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Each site is also equipped with COVID-19 kits that include a mask, single-use hand sanitizer, reusable thermometers and contraceptives. Information stations also provide instructions on how to book a vaccination appointment and quarantine.

The program is built off of the department’s initial goal to distribute masks and hand sanitizer to I.V. residents, according to Larios. Since then, Larios said the founders realized that many people were unaware of current COVID-19 developments and consequently expanded their efforts.

“We saw that there was a lack of information and a space where students can get accurate information,” Larios said. “We wanted to take something that we already have in place and put it in a way where we can actively engage with community members.”

All public health ambassadors have undergone training provided by the Department of Health and Wellness to answer questions relating to COVID-19. The training was developed by Larios and approved by UCSB Student Health to ensure that the ambassadors are able to provide accurate information on COVID-19. 

Any students interested in becoming a public health ambassador can still register through UCSB Shoreline and await future training as the program updates its content in accordance with new COVID-19 developments. 

Larios hopes that interacting with the public health ambassadors will give people more confidence in understanding the current stage of the pandemic, vaccine availability and county regulations.

“We wanted to have a space where, if students were on the borderline [of getting the vaccine or not], they could have a safe space to go and ask a peer for more information on these vaccines or anything COVID-19 related,” Larios said.

“What we are really looking for is people who want to assure that community members have the tools that they need in order to strive to the best of their ability in this pandemic, whether that is simply by providing a mask or clearing up a misconception.”

Larios said that the information stations will continue into fall quarter, although the manner in which they will conduct their services is subject to change depending on county and state health guidelines.

“It’s really just about servicing the community, providing them with accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines, how the virus transmission works and also providing the community members with knowledge of what resources are accessible to them in the Santa Barbara community,” Larios said.