While several countries around the world are developing national strategies to lessen the outbreak of COVID-19, otherwise known as a type of coronavirus, the United States has not yet developed a unified course of action. Washington state has been one of the most affected since the virus spread to America, leaving officials to devise short term, cost-effective solutions using preexisting resources.
Health officials in King County, the most populous county in Washington, saw potential in converting a motel up for sale into a public health quarantine facility. The Econo Lodge in Kent, a city 20 miles south of Seattle, was purchased for $4 million to house up to 80 patients. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the former motel is set to be operational within the next week.
The community leaders in Kent, however, have expressed their concerns about the sudden reuse of the motel as a quarantine facility without proper notification. “We have invested millions of dollars into the infrastructure around this location,” Kent Mayor Dana Ralph told the Los Angeles Times, “and now visitors and residents will be greeted by a public health quarantine facility.” The motel’s location across from Washington State Route 167, the main thoroughfare between Seattle and Kent, makes its presence in the city especially apparent.
It has also been pointed out that while more cases were documented in nearby Kirkland, a wealthier city with a median income of $107,000, the lower-income city of Kent was chosen as a quarantine facility site given the relatively low property cost. “So we’re taking patients currently being exposed in the wealthier communities on the east side,” said Ralph, “and putting them down in the middle of our city. An affluent community honestly would have more resources to handle a potential disruption like this.” King County’s response to the coronavirus outbreak is a potential case study for how other regions across the United States might treat the virus in the coming months, suggesting a potential overlap between the country’s economic disparity and proposed solutions for public health crisis prevention.
A “drive-through” method of early testing, on the other hand, is available to employees of the University of Washington’s UW Medicine department. According to NPR, a hospital garage lot has been quickly turned into a clinic by installing three well-ventilated medical tents, in which patients can be tested every five minutes. While this is currently limited to health care workers in the university’s health care system, it provides a model for larger-scale methods other sites across America can potentially adopt.