Spokane officials outlined a broad plan for isolation of COVID-19 patients this week with options that could include hotels, college dormitories and sports arenas.
The isolation facility options were outlined in Spokane County’s request, granted Friday, to enter Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Washington reopening plan.
The facilities that could be called on to house people diagnosed with, or showing symptoms of, COVID-19 include a My Place Hotel in Spokane Valley, an unspecified Quality Inn, Morrison Hall at Eastern Washington University, apartment-style student housing at Gonzaga University and the Warehouse Athletic Facility in Spokane.
In an emergency, the officials could also make use of the Spokane Arena or Spokane County Fair & Expo Center.
The Spokane Regional Health District does not have contracts in place with these facilities, but listed them as options to isolate COVID-19 patients, according to Kelli Hawkins, a health district spokeswoman.
“These places have been gracious in being options,” Hawkins said. “They’re really extending themselves to be able to help us.”
The contract to operate the county’s current isolation facility, a 100-bed space at the fairgrounds overseen by the Guardians Foundation and CHAS, expires on May 31.
Isolation is a key component of any county’s ability to move forward in Inslee’s reopening plan and is a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Some people, including those who are experiencing homelessness or live with an immunocompromised person, don’t have the ability to safely self-isolate at home.
Public health officials, including Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz, have said only a small minority of people diagnosed with COVID-19 don’t have the ability to self-isolate at home. But for those who can’t, isolation is a priority, and the state has said it must be provided free of charge.
When it does open a new facility or facilities for isolation, the health district will not disclose it to the public in order to protect the privacy of the people being served there, Hawkins said. The people in isolation will not be leaving their rooms and don’t pose a risk to others, she added.
“We know that if there are other patrons in a hotel, or a dorm, wherever it happens to be, (they) are going to be safe,” Hawkins said.
EWU has agreed to use Morrison Hall as an isolation site for health care workers and first responders, but it has not been called on to do so and has not signed a formal contract.
“We want to be good community partners – particularly for those who are on the ‘front lines,’ ” said Dave Meany, a spokesman for the university.
Morrison Hall was chosen as an isolation site because it is scheduled for demolition.
“The university thought that building would be best since it would most likely be razed before ever having students in it again,” Meany said.
The county’s initial, emergency response to providing isolation was to establish a 100-bed facility at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center.
The facility never neared its capacity, which was set at 100 because officials, at the time, feared a surge of COVID-19 patients in Spokane County. On Friday, there was a single person in the isolation facility.
Using hotels and college dormitories is expected to be more financially efficient because their use can be scaled up or down to fit the county’s needs. That’s an evolution from the model at the fairgrounds, where providers were paid a fixed rate for oversight of a 100-person capacity isolation center with only a handful of guests.
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