The isolation facility at the county fairgrounds will continue to operate through the end of May.
The contracts that established the facility, which has seen little use but is considered a key component to the COVID-19 response, were originally set to expire on Friday.
Officials extended the contracts until June to buy additional time as they continue to consider alternatives for isolation that include a range of possible sites.
Spokane Regional Health District spokeswoman Kelli Hawkins confirmed the contract extension on Thursday and said “new options” will be explored for June.
At a news conference on Thursday, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said that, when the contract expires in June, the current setup would be succeeded by an 18-month plan to provide isolation for those who require it. He did not elucidate the details.
Isolation is a necessary component of the region’s and state’s reopening strategies. The facility allows people diagnosed with COVID-19, or at least showing symptoms of the disease, to isolate from other people and, hopefully, prevent the spread of the virus.
Although most people prefer to self-isolate at home, some do not have the ability to do so. People who are homeless cannot easily isolate, for example. Others may be able to isolate at home, but live with a person with a compromised immune system and would prefer not to take the risk of infecting them.
The isolation facility at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center is operated by the Guardians Foundation, a Post Falls-based nonprofit that provides transportation to and from the facility, as well as around-the-clock security.
CHAS provides medical services at the isolation facility during the day.
Expecting a potential wave of COVID-19 patients in Spokane County, officials built the fairgrounds isolation facility with a capacity of up to 100 people at any one time. As of last week, the facility had taken in fewer than 30 people in total.
Moving forward, local officials have toured a number of potential isolation sites and hope to provide the county with a “menu” of isolation sites with varying services to meet individuals’ needs, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz told The Spokesman-Review last week.
The isolation facility has been used as a component of the Spokane Regional Health District’s aggressive measures in local homeless shelters, where a team of health officials screen guests for COVID-19 symptoms on a nightly basis.
Those who display symptoms are taken to the isolation facility to undergo a COVID-19 test, results of which are typically returned within a matter of hours.
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