A patient in Orcutt is the first person in Santa Barbara County known to have contracted COVID-19, seen here (orange) as the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerging from cells (green). | Credit: NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), U.S. NIH

Santa Barbara County health authorities have unearthed the first case of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus declared a global pandemic last week by the World Health Organization. The case originated in North County, reportedly in Orcutt. While details are scant, the individual, who’s in his sixties with no underlying health issues, had not been traveling, according to County Public Health, so this would be an instance of community transmission. The individual is recovering in isolation at home until cleared by the Public Health Officer.

This news comes on the heels of now-confirmed reports that five Isla Vista residents have been placed on mandatory quarantine after returning from San Diego, where they came in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. Social media accounts of the incident first surfaced on Thursday. County health officials are reporting that the five came in contact with the infected individual on March 8. It is not known when that individual tested positive.

For the time being, the five I.V. residents are being quarantined separately in undisclosed locations. They are demonstrating very limited to mild respiratory symptoms. Their roommates have been instructed to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms.

This information came to the attention of public health authorities last Friday via UCSB Health Services. It remains uncertain how long these five were back in Santa Barbara before they were contacted by county and campus health officials.

In another indication of the virus’s escalating profile, UCSB has now confirmed that in-person classes have been canceled through the end of the school year, meaning until June, and that all classes will be conducted online instead.

In the meantime, the Chumash Casino has also now announced that it is shutting down all casino operations, not just shows and concerts as had been reported before. Casinos, it turns out, are exempt from the governor’s order earlier this week to ban any gathering of 250 people or more. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that UCSB was canceling classes; they are instead switching to online classes and canceling in-person classes.


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