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Kent wants to stop Econo Lodge from being coronavirus quarantine site

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.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kent officials are unhappy with King County’s planned Econo Lodge quarantine site, and have taken legal action to stop it.

Located on Central Avenue in Kent, the Econo Lodge motel sits less than two miles away from the city’s downtown core — and more than 20 miles away from Kirkland, where the county’s coronavirus outbreak seemingly began.

Today Kent mayor Dana Ralph directed the city attorney to file a restraining order against King County government, in the hopes that it would put an end to housing outbreak patients at the motel. Aside from this move, Ralph also signed a proclamation declaring a state of emergency in Kent, due to COVID-19.

"We want to be clear, we recognize our role as a large city to play our part ... in this public health crisis, but we all know one of the best ways to manage a crisis is with a plan. King County has still been unable to articulate an adequate plan," Ralph said.

The county finalized the purchase of the Econo Lodge motel in Kent, on March 4. It was expected to be operational "within days" and used to monitor people with COVID-19.

The motel has 85 beds and would isolate people with the coronavirus, from the general public. It comes equipped with hard surfaces, seamless floors, and independent heating and cooling for each room, county officials said.

Ralph said that on Wednesday, the county said that they would be moving patients into the Kent motel in nine to 10 days. And today, just before noon, Kent officials were told infectious patients could arrive in Kent as early as Friday evening.

King County failed to acquire the necessary city permits, despite city officials having raised this issue three times with leadership, Ralph added.

"(King County) failed to give us adequate answers around public health and safety, especially around the issue of patients leaving this facility and traveling throughout our downtown," Ralph said.

A King County Superior Court judge denied the temporary restraining order with conditions, according to a statement from the Office of King County Executive Dow Constantine. And the motel in Kent was the only site on the market that included separate HVAC in each unit, and separate doors to the outside, the statement continued.

The county is moving forward with all of their designated quarantine sites, said Leo Flor, director of the county's community and human services department.

He said they're moving "as quickly as possible" to get the sites operational.

"As you can imagine, there's a lot that's going into that right now ... we want to make sure that we have the capacity to help people in the community, as the number of folks with (coronavirus) continues to grow," Flor said.

Other county planned quarantine sites include a north Seattle location adjacent to Aurora Avenue and the Top Hat property in White Center, where portable structures would house quarantine patients.

A petition against the White Center quarantine site had drummed up more than 11,000 signatures, as of Friday evening.

"Our hearts go out to those suffering from this deadly disease, and to families who have lost loved ones. But we must push back against bureaucratic decisions that fail to take our own well-being into account. We are not the dumping ground of King County. We have a beautiful, thriving, diverse community here in White Center," the petition states.

Kate Walters contributed to this story.

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