The Only Way to the Orange Tier Is Through Isla Vista

Small College Community Experiences Rise in COVID Cases

Nick Clay, director of the County Emergency Medical Services Agency, explained on Friday that the rise in cases in Isla Vista now accounts for 4 percent of all of the county’s cases. He said that ultimately, Isla Vistans need to be responsible for following proper social-distancing protocol. | Credit: Courtesy

The tiny, half-square-mile community of Isla Vista now accounts for 4 percent of all of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 cases — that’s 397 cases that are responsible for keeping the county in the red tier longer than anticipated.

“What happens next in Isla Vista is truly up to its residents,” said Nick Clay, director of the County Emergency Medical Services Agency. “No matter how much we test, how much public education we send out, or how much a health order is enforced, the individuals in that community need to take the appropriate actions to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Clay said at the Friday press conference that peer-to-peer education has proved to be the most effective strategy in the community made up of a majority of college-aged residents. Isla Vista is notoriously known for its annual Halloween parties, but this year, a virtual event paired with increased enforcement is being used to quash the mass gatherings before they start. 


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The recent surge in cases has put the community at the top of the list with the highest seven-day sum of cases for the first time since the pandemic began. Clay said that UCSB is working closely with Public Health to keep infections down. Public Health set up a free testing site in Isla Vista; UCSB Student Health has ramped up all testing, contact tracing, and quarantine efforts; and UCSB is conducting surveillance testing.

Clay also said that 26 cases are still active in Isla Vista, a number that is more difficult to track than it may seem because many students have addresses outside of the county and therefore experience a delay in counting the case inside of the county.

Overall, the county has had 9,944 cases of COVID-19 to date, 137 of which are still infectious. Two additional people died from the virus today, bringing the total number of deaths to 128 countywide. There are currently nine people hospitalized, one of whom is in the intensive care unit at a county hospital.


At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor.  Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you  in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.

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