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Office of the Chancellor, UCSB
March 23, 2020

Dear UC Santa Barbara Students,

We are writing to share with you the letter below authored by our faculty health experts, our president of Associated Students, and our Student Health Medical Director requesting your help in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We hope you take the time to read this important request and to take all the steps possible to protect your own health as well as that of your family, friends, and our community. 


Henry T. Yang

Margaret Klawunn
Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs

Students at UCSB—we need your help.

We are scientists, physicians, and student leaders on our campus and we ask you to read this message carefully. It is a simple message. You can help to halt the spread of COVID-19 in our community. How? By being very careful to keep good separation from people you do not live with or who you don’t know. Why is this simple measure the answer? Because we increasingly realize that young people carry the virus, often asymptomatically without even knowing it, and yet when they come in contact with others, it spreads and it can kill.

For those of you who want to see the evidence, here are some facts:
  • The CDC analyzed more than 2,400 cases of COVID-19 in the United States over the past month.
  • Between 1 in 7 and 1 in 5 confirmed cases between the ages of 20 and 44 require hospitalization and 2-4% of this group are admitted to intensive care units. This severity of disease does not happen for influenza.
  • Santa Barbara’s Public Health Officer states that an estimated 85% of Santa Barbara’s population could get sick in the next two months if we allow the regional outbreak to run its course.
  • This disease is NOT the flu! Contrary to early misconceptions, some young people can become very seriously ill. If you get it, you could wind up in the hospital due to difficulty breathing. Because this disease seems poised to overwhelm the hospital system, each hospital bed you take may prevent another sick person from getting admitted to the hospital. Once the disease is this serious, it could leave you with lifelong lung or kidney damage.

We understand that many of you may be excited to return to Isla Vista and your academic year may have been cut short, but if you are able to stay at home, please do this. Isla Vista is a community where more than 20,000 people, most of them students from UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College, live in an area less than two square miles. Please help our community alleviate some of this added pressure by making the choice to remain home for spring quarter.

In such a social, active community like Isla Vista, it might be difficult for some to change their daily lifestyles, but we can all act as leaders and curtail the spread of COVID-19 throughout the larger community by following the stay-at-home order mandated in California and following basic health procedures/guidelines. We are advising that you continue to maintain a safe social distance, halt all large social gatherings of over 10 people, and have a conversation with housemates to follow CDC’s guidelines and inform each other of the seriousness of this pandemic. Especially since it is not unusual to have housemates of over 10 people in Isla Vista, making an agreement with the people in your household to not violate the stay-at-home order will be crucial. Increasing the distance between us will help make the virus less likely to transfer.

If the health of you and your friends were not reason enough to severely limit your proximity to others, then consider what could happen when you visit an older person, say your parents or grandparents. Perhaps you come in contact with them while you carry the disease, but you might not know you have it because you feel well. Just like you, older people also get COVID-19, but it is much more deadly. Current estimates show that a fifth to a third of those between the ages of 45 and 65 who contract the disease are hospitalized. By age 75 and older, hospitalization estimates range from 30-70%. Adults over the age of 65 account for 80% of the deaths associated with the coronavirus.

However, this thing inevitably will end. If you do not panic and quietly remain as comfortable as possible under the difficult circumstances in which many students live, you will be a source of strength for your friends and you will be one of those who contributed to stopping this pandemic. If our social responsibility is to stay at home and live to come together another day - so be it!

Remember to prevent the spread of respiratory illness:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay away from people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
  • Keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.

Kenneth S. Kosik, MD
Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Institute
Harriman Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience
Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Carolina Arias Gonzalez, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Charles E. Samuel, PhD
C.A. Storke Professor and Distinguished Professor, Emeritus
Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Ali Javanbakht, MD
Medical Director and Interim Executive Director
UCSB Student Health

Alison Sir
UCSB Student Body President
Associated Students

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