SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Public Health leaders have been meeting with University of California, Santa Barbara leaders to send a message to students about COVID-19 prevention.
Although the university would prefer students study online from their home community, they are aware many students have returned to housing in Isla Vista for the Fall Quarter, which starts on Oct. 1.
Some students have shared videos of gatherings and parties the county would not approve of. Students reluctant to give their names said Santa Barbara City College students held a birthday party with a bounce house at their home on Del Playa Drive, but they said it wasn't a rager and they tried to limit it to the people who lived at the address.
Since the return of students there has been an increase in COVID-19 cases that could be linked to gatherings and parties.
Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said during a county update on the day after Labor Day, "The county and UCSB have met on several occasions these past few weeks to address the issue of gatherings as students return to the area. We support the decision by the university to not hold in-person classes for the fall. We applaud the action by both UCSB and SBCC (Santa Barbara City College) in sending letters to their students alerting them that they will be held accountable for violations of health officer orders and any violations of the students code of conduct."
A UCSB spokeswoman wrote in a statement, "We have sent joint letters with SBCC to the residents of houses that have been referenced in reports. We also have discouraged our students from returning to Isla Vista for the fall, and we have made it clear to our students that they can be held accountable for behavior that violates either public health orders or UC Student Conduct policy."
UCSB has not yet explained how they will hold students accountable.
In the meantime, the county is working on an outreach campaign.
"The county, UCSB, and IV stakeholders will collaborate on a new targeted outreach education campaign. Outreach ambassadors will continue to be in Isla Vista to provide education and masks. They do not approach parties or gatherings in progress, but will proactively provide information on health and safety during COVID, which is to avoid gathering and the need to wear face-coverings when in public," said Do-Reynoso.
The county is trying to reduce case numbers in order to move into the less restrictive "red tier" that will allow some in-person instruction.
Do-Reynoso said it will also allow businesses to move about 25 percent of what they do indoors.
If students cooperate they may not have to do all of their learning online.