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caption: A King County worker paints over an Econo Lodge sign on Friday, March 6, 2020, on Central Avenue North in Kent.
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A King County worker paints over an Econo Lodge sign on Friday, March 6, 2020, on Central Avenue North in Kent.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Coronavirus getaway: Man departs early from Washington state quarantine site

A patient has fled from the Kent isolation site housed in the former Econo Lodge motel, officials announced Friday morning.

So far, this site has tested and sheltered two people, King County reported. The first tested negative and has since left the site.

The patient who fled the site had not received their test results before their departure. But by Friday evening, the patient's test results had returned negative.

The patient, experiencing homelessness, refused to listen to the instructions of an onsite security guard and left the motel.

They then allegedly shoplifted from a nearby convenience store, before they jumped on a northbound King County Metro bus. The route 153 bus has since been removed from service and sanitized, King County said in a statement.

Kent officials have fought the county's isolation site in court, but their attempts have not stopped the location from happening.

"We know that you can't make a medical facility a jail. That is not what we're asking for," Dana Ralph, mayor of Kent, said. "But we have been asking for fencing for almost two weeks now, because it would at least slow down someone leaving."

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said there’s no law to hold anyone against their will at a voluntary facility.

“There is nothing we can do, short of letting them do what they want to do and really that's that's our grave concern,” Padilla said.

He added that there was a failure of notification, and Kent leaders were not being notified when people walked away from the site.

As a result of the Friday morning departure, King County will shift the isolation and quarantine units in Kent and White Center to help people "who do not need supportive social services," according to a press release from Executive Dow Constantine. Sites to temporary house those with behavioral health needs will be located.