Isla Vista Regains Sense of Normalcy with Vaccine Rollout

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Illustration by Alyssa Long

Carolyn French

National Beat Reporter

As the availability of COVID-19 vaccines expands, a more hopeful future approaches for UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) students. On April 6, Santa Barbara County Public Health officials announced that any Santa Barbara resident 16 and over is eligible for the vaccine. 

The broadening of vaccination groups is a major contribution to UCSB’s campus reopening in the fall 2021 school year. On April 16, Chancellor Yang sent an email to all UCSB students to announce plans for in-person classes next school year. 

According to Yang, “the increasing availability of vaccines, significant decrease in California’s infection rate, and Governor Gavin Newsom’s aspirational announcement that the state is expected to ‘fully reopen’ in June” has allowed for an optimistic future for UCSB.

According to the LA Times, over 45 percent of California residents have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many UCSB students are amongst that expanding population. Those who have been vaccinated can attest to their experience with getting the vaccine and how it has affected their mindsets surrounding the pandemic.

Third-year Mehgan Dunn got her first dose of the Moderna vaccine in mid-March at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara, and received her second dose two weeks ago. The first dose made her lethargic, and the second dose made her arm sore for a few days. Despite this, Dunn had relatively minor side effects to the vaccine.

“As the availability of COVID-19 vaccines expands, a more hopeful future approaches for UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) students. On April 6, Santa Barbara County Public Health officials announced that any Santa Barbara resident 16 and over is eligible for the vaccine.”

Dunn currently lives in Isla Vista (I.V.) with five other housemates, all of whom are now partially or fully vaccinated. Dunn said that she and her housemates have been conscious of who they interact with throughout the pandemic, but the emergence of the vaccine has made them more comfortable.

“We’re definitely much less anxious seeing people I don’t know or people I’m not close with,” Dunn said. “And I think everyone feels that way, since we’re vaccinated we’re more comfortable returning to normalcy.”

Dunn has also noticed a shift in I.V.’s culture, as she has watched many of her peers begin to interact in larger groups more frequently.

“I feel like people are definitely getting more comfortable having large parties from what I’ve seen on social media, and I am hearing about less cases so that’s good. It’s still unsure, but I feel like the culture in I.V. has shifted because I just feel like it’s less on people’s minds now and less of a worry,” Dunn said.

Maddie Bacon, a third-year UCSB student, had more intense side effects following her first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Bacon reported feeling tired, achy, and feverish the day following the first dose. Her arm remained sore and difficult to use for a few days.

“According to the LA Times, over 45 percent of California residents have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many UCSB students are amongst that expanding population.”

However, Bacon has also seen the overall shift in the culture of I.V. as more students are getting vaccinated.

“I think that students are able to see each other more when everyone’s vaccinated,” Bacon said. “There’s a feeling of relief throughout I.V. because it’s not so immoral to see friends or other people, and I haven’t met anyone who’s been opposed to being vaccinated.”

Both Bacon and Dunn are optimistic about the future and are looking forward to the reopening of I.V. culture and campus for the upcoming school year.

“I’m just excited to take a class, to go into a building, to feel like a student, and also just being on campus with people and feeling the return to normal life,” Dunn said. “And I’m excited to not have to worry all the time.”