The former Econo Lodge on Central Avenue North in Kent has become King County’s primary isolation and quarantine facility over the last couple of months for people with COVID-19 who don’t have a place to stay.
King County bought the hotel in March 2020 for $4 million as a backup facility to other locations. But the county’s lease with a hotel in Issaquah ended in August and all isolation and quarantine activities in Issaquah ceased, said Sherry Hamilton, communications director for the King County Department of Community and Human Services, in a Sept. 23 email.
Another county location on Aurora Avenue in Seattle is closed for repairs and renovations.
“In the summer for that brief window of time when it seemed perhaps COVID was moving behind us, our daily I&Q census dropped down to single digits and we even had a couple of nights when we had no guests at all,” Hamilton said about the Kent location. “And then the delta variant started to make itself known. In the space of two weeks we went from zero guests to 35-40 a night. Looking at the last 30 days, it has hovered in the low 50s per night, with a high of 60 guests but has also fluctuated down to 35 one night as there were more discharges than admits.”
Hamilton said the county reached out to local businesses in August near the isolation center as well as city of Kent staff and the Mayor’s Office that numbers would be going up at the former hotel, 1233 Central Ave. N., which can hold up to 80 people.
“Communication between the county and city has been excellent, and the county and city remain committed to work together to determine the hotel’s future after the pandemic,” said Derek Matheson, city chief administrative officer, in a Sept. 23 email.
With some hospitals reporting capacity concerns due to increasing COVID-19 cases, Hamilton said it’s important for the county to keep operating the isolation and quarantine facility.
“It is not possible to say, at this time, how long the county may need to maintain I&Q capacity for our community, but at this time, we believe the facility in Kent will likely stay open through the end of the year,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the county has no long-term or permanent plans for the former hotel at this time.
The county opened the facilities to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to keep hospital beds available for people with acute health care needs, Hamilton said. More than 2,700 people have used county isolation and quarantine facilities since March 2020 when the pandemic struck.
The rooms are used by King County residents who cannot safely self-quarantine or isolate in their own home, or do not have a home.
Isolation is for people who test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath. By staying away from others (isolating) while sick, they can avoid infecting housemates and people in the community. During quarantine, health experts recommend people stay away from others for 10 days and watch for symptoms.
According to the county, people who use the facility include first responders and health care workers; those who can’t self-isolate or quarantine at home (such as a close shared-living situation); and people experiencing homelessness.
As far as staffing at the Kent facility, Public Health-Seattle & King County clinical staff assess and approve all placements into isolation and quarantine. Onsite, the Kent facility has 24/7 staffing, including security, a site manager and health care professionals. Health and behavioral health care professionals are onsite 24/7 to regularly monitor health status and symptoms.
Meals, snacks and other essentials are provided to guests through a “drop-and-go” protocol, according to the county. Rooms have a television or portable tablet and puzzles or games are available to combat isolation and boredom. Occupants have a telephone to keep in touch with family and friends, and a 24/7 number to call if their condition should change or if they need any supplies or other assistance.
County staff says anyone needing acute care or medically necessary procedures will be transported immediately to a licensed medical facility. Transportation will be provided by the most appropriate method, including ambulances or other transportation providers.
• If you or someone you know may need isolation and quarantine services or you have questions, call the
King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977. It is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Interpretation service is available in multiple languages.