Businesses near the Econolodge – a Kent motel being turned into a coronavirus quarantine facility – won’t let a judge’s ruling stop their fight to keep potential patients from moving into the neighborhood.
Late Friday evening, a King County judge denied a temporary restraining order request from the City of Kent, opening the way for King County Executive Dow Constantine to follow through with plans to transfer more than a dozen people to the EconoLodge on North Central Avenue, just off SR 167.
In an interview with Bloomberg, which was published in Time, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph reiterated her frustration over the original decision.
“We’re one of the largest cities in the county, and we know we have a role to play in preventing the spread of the virus,” Ralph said. “But we were not included in the conversation or decision making.”
At a press conference last week, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla sided with Mayor Ralph, saying, “I took an oath to protect our community, which is why I cannot support this ill-advised and dangerous plan by King County.”
Mayor Ralph said she instructed Deputy City Attorney Tammy White to file for the temporary restraining order Friday afternoon after not receiving any answers from King County to her questions about how they plan to keep Kent residents and visitors safe from the virus. However, the judge sided with King County.
Business owners are also speaking out about King County’s decision to turn the motel into a voluntary quarantine, and about the judge’s ruling.
“We are extremely disappointed. It feels as if a King County judge siding with King County is very one-sided and unjust,” said Mark Scarff in reaction to the ruling.
Mark owns Bowen Scarff Ford and Lincoln, which is just one hundred feet away from the EconoLodge. The auto dealership has been part of the local landscape for nearly a century. He and his employees are still trying to wrap their minds around a decision made by the King County Council without any input from Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, first responders, or business owners in the immediate vicinity, including a very busy 7-Eleven store and Denny’s restaurant right across the street, as well as Carpinito Brothers Farm Stand, which sells fresh produce and other goods.
Rupali Handa and coworkers at a gas station across the street from the motel, told Bloomberg they’ve been hearing from customers who are frustrated about the plan. Handa told Bloomberg, “I’m sorry for the people who are going through this.” She agrees that people who are sick should be quarantined somewhere other than the motel.
Dennis Zaborac owns Kent Bowl, which is across the street from the EconoLodge. He told the Los Angeles Times:
“It makes no sense to follow the quarantine if they can walk in, walk out, and go across the street to Denny’s and have dinner. It’s an old hotel where they’ve had trouble with drugs. If they couldn’t control the drugs, how are they going to control the virus?”
Business owners are not only concerned about the risk of COVID-19 exposure to their businesses, they’re also worried about the health of those King County plans to move into the EconoLodge, which does not appear to have been sanitized in preparation for housing men and women who may be extremely ill.
“This is not a motel we would want to send our own family to,” Scarff said. “We expected to see a massive cleanup effort and remodeling due to previous use, but we have not seen evidence of any significant cleanup or sterilization at all.”
An attorney for King County told the judge Friday that the motel would house 15 firefighters who have been exposed to coronavirus but have not tested positive. It’s unclear where those firefighters are coming from, as Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodinville fire departments say affected firefighters will quarantine at their homes or fire precincts.
The City of Kent is expected to head back to court early this week to ask a judge to ensure King County to take all the necessary steps and file for pertinent permits to make sure the motel meets safety standards for the community, as well as the patients who will be housed there.
The novel coronavirus outbreak has spread to Pierce, Jefferson, Kittitas and Clark Counties in Washington state. There are currently 117 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 19 deaths in Washington. 17 deaths are from King County. The other two deaths are from Snohomish and Grant counties. Health officials in Clark, Kittitas, Pierce, and Jefferson counties each confirm at least one positive case of coronavirus.
Federal health officials visited the Life Care Center in Kirkland over the weekend. That’s the nursing home considered to be the epicenter of the coronavirus in Washington State, with more than 12 deaths and dozens of confirmed illnesses.
A recent news report from KUOW radio in Seattle chronicled a lack of attention to the virus, which spread rapidly from patient to patient and has also affected families of nursing home residents and firefighters who responded to emergency calls, who weren’t told they were dealing with COVID-19 infections. Nearly two dozen Kirkland firefighters are now being monitored for the virus.
Additionally, the University of Washington Virology department says it has processed about 400 COVID-19 tests so far, with 5 to 7% of those tests coming back positive.