Journalists photograph a room at an Econo Lodge motel in Kent, Wash., Wednesday, March 4, 2020. King County Executive Dow Constantine said Wednesday that the county had purchased the 85-bed motel south of Seattle to house patients for recovery and isolation due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

COVID-19: Seattle-area officials buy $4 million ‘quarantine’ motel

Not everyone is putting out the welcome mat

Hard surfaces, easy-to-clean floors and separate heating-and-cooling units in each room: The amenities offered by the suburban EconoLodge motel may not be fancy, but they were just what Seattle-area officials say they were looking for in a quarantine facility for coronavirus patients.

Officials in King County, which is dealing with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, announced this week that it is buying the motel for $4 million. The deal is expected to close on Friday and officials hope to have the first patients in within days.

But not everyone is putting out the welcome mat.

ALSO READ: ‘Very concerning’ — Travellers from Iran asked to self-isolate as COVID-19 cases increase

The EconoLodge is a two-story, 84-room motel just off a state highway in Kent, about 20 miles (32 km) south of Seattle. The rooms’ doors open to the outside, rather than to a central hallway, reducing the likelihood of contact between the patients. The individual heating-and-cooling units reduce the chance of germs spreading through a ventilation system.

“Maybe you’re a patient who is out of the hospital, out of the active treatment phase, but you have someone who is high-risk, elderly or a pregnant spouse at home, so you can’t go there — this would be a place for someone like that,” said county spokesman Chase Gallagher. “The other category would be maybe someone who is homeless and can’t go to a shelter.”

The motel is part of the efforts officials are taking in an epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. There have been 70 confirmed cases in Washington state, most of them in the greater Seattle area, where researchers say the virus was apparently circulating undetected for weeks. Ten people have died — most of them residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in the suburb of Kirkland.

Officials are also setting up isolation units in trailers on public parking lots or other land.

ALSO READ: B.C. senior in critical condition after contracting COVID-19

But the county’s plan for the motel has drawn opposition from local leaders. Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said officials didn’t notify her about their intent, and that while the city has spent money and time to improve its appearance, visitors and residents will now be greeted by a quarantine facility as they enter town.

“We are concerned the coronavirus is simply a pretext for the siting of a long-term quarantine facility here in Kent,” Ralph said at a news conference Wednesday. “They are replicating and bringing a situation similar in scale to the Life Care Center of Kirkland and dropping it off in the middle of Kent.”

She called it an “equity issue” that patients from wealthier, less-diverse parts of the county would be brought to Kent.

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla called it an “ill-advised and dangerous plan.” He said the patients would be under a voluntary quarantine: “At any point a patient can simply walk into our community and spread the virus.”

He called on the county to ensure that it had the security presence and authority to keep people in the motel if necessary.

Gallagher said he wasn’t sure it was true that the patients would be allowed to leave whenever they wanted, but he acknowledged that questions remained about how the facility will operate.

“This is moving very quickly,” he said.

Gene Johnson, The Associated Press

ALSO READ: COVID-19 — Six handwashing mistakes to avoid

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

Tofino and Ucluelet distilleries step up with hand sanitizer

Mass supply delivered to emergency operation centres in Tofino, Ucluelet, Bamfield and Port Alberni.

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Donors in Port Alberni called on to give blood

Donation event scheduled for April 7 to 9 at Italian Hall Events Centre

VALLEY SENIORS: Eighty years of Alberni Valley memories

Pat Rogers celebrates 80 years of living in the Alberni Valley

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

COVID-19: Qualicum Beach youngster gets car parade for his sixth birthday

Friends get creative after party cancelled due to ongoing pandemic

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

Nanaimo RCMP ask for help locating 17-year-old girl believed to be with 36-year-old man

Mary Cyprich, missing since Thurday, might be in company of Force Forsythe

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

Most Read