King County turned a former Econo Lodge in Kent on Central Avenue into a COVID-19 quarantine facility. FILE PHOTO

King County turned a former Econo Lodge in Kent on Central Avenue into a COVID-19 quarantine facility. FILE PHOTO

City of Kent loses third attempt to halt King County quarantine facility

Judge rules city permits not needed for emergency use of former motel, but will be for future plans

The city of Kent lost in court for the third time in an attempt to stop King County’s operation of a public health coronavirus quarantine facility at a former motel.

King County Superior Court Judge Ketu Shah denied last week the city’s motion for a preliminary injunction, according to an email from Deputy City Attorney Tammy White. A King County court commissioner earlier this month had denied two previous attempts by the city to halt the facility at the former Econo Lodge, 1233 Central Ave. N.

Judge Shah, however, agreed with the city’s argument to limit the county’s use of the facility to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency only and said the county needs to improve communication with city officials.

“We are grateful the judge has continued to limit the facility to the COVID-19 emergency only,” Mayor Dana Ralph said in a Wednesday statement. “While the judge disagreed with our argument, we continue to believe the city’s zoning code applies to the King County government. We call on the county to take the judge’s advice and engage the city of Kent in a cooperative agreement.

“We also hope that the county will communicate with us directly, so we don’t have to get our status updates from the media. Again, we have been asking to be a partner in fighting this public health crisis – we just want open and honest communication from our government partners.”

White said other uses of the property will require the county to comply with the city’s land use and zoning code, something the county didn’t do after it bought the motel and property for $4 million earlier this month and started the quarantine facility.

“Judge Shah acknowledged the city’s frustration with the lack of communication by the county, and he encouraged the county to continue its conversations with the city concerning the facility so that Kent citizens feel their voices are being heard,” White said.

According to court documents, Shah ruled:

“King County may continue to use the “Econo Lodge” property for isolation and quarantine of individuals who are suffering from, or who are suspected of, or who have been exposed to COVID-19 and any co-occurring conditions without any limitation on the number of patients,” Shah wrote.

Shah said the county had the authority to operate the facility.

“King County is in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic,” he wrote in court documents. “COVID-19 is a dangerous contagious disease. RCW 70.05.070 (2)-(3) authorizes the Local Health Officer to take a broad range of actions to control COVID-19 including by establishing isolation and quarantine locations. …Using a motel to isolate and quarantine those without another suitable place to do so is a reasonable action by the Local Health Officer.”

King County quarantine facilities

The county has identified five sites around the county to offer isolation (for confirmed cases) or quarantine spaces (for possible/suspected cases) for residents, according to a Wednesday news release from King County Executive Dow Constantine. Individuals can only be placed into these sites after Public Health has determined that they need isolation or quarantine.

Every person prioritized for placement will receive an assignment to a specific location and receive transportation to and from the site, where they will receive individual health monitoring and all meals and basic needs will be met for the duration of their stay. Some sites will have enhanced health and behavioral health services capacity and individuals with higher intensity needs will be prioritized to those sites.

The sites include:

* Kent motel, 1233 Central Ave. N., Kent (79 spaces) Open

* North Seattle modulars, 1132 N. 128th St., Seattle (23 spaces) Open

* Harborview Hall, 326 Ninth Ave., Seattle (45 spaces)

* White Center modulars, 206 SW 112th St., Seattle (31 spaces) Open early April

* Issaquah motel 1801 12th Ave. NW, Issaquah (99 spaces) Open early April

In addition, the City of Seattle has created an isolation and quarantine site designated for first responders, with 155 spaces in Seattle.

As of Thursday, 11 people were staying in a King County isolation and quarantine facility, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. The agency didn’t specify which facilities the people were staying in.


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