A COVID-19 quarantine and isolation facility in Hoquiam, originally projected to be ready for use Sept. 22, will likely open in “the first part of October,” according to county incident management team spokesman Nicklaus Falley.
Work began on the facility, the old Hoquiam Crisis Clinic on 8th Street next to City Hall, in July. The 15-bed facility is being designed to accommodate both isolation and quarantine Covid-19 cases, with appropriate ventilation and security cameras for proper site monitoring.
In July, the county’s Covid-19 response team incident commander Leonard Johnson said Grays Harbor County will be among the few counties in the state to have a “hardened facility” owned and operated by the county.
Currently, the county is using the Quinault Indian Nation’s Sweet Grass Hotel on Ocean Shores Boulevard in Ocean Shores.
“We have had 13 individuals use the facility since July 10, with an average stay of 7.3 nights,” said Falley. Those were the current numbers as of Sept. 14. The number can vary from day to day; Raines reported Monday that nobody was at the Sweet Grass.
Prior to the Sweet Grass, the county was under contract with the Hoquiam Econolodge on Simpson Avenue for use as a quarantine and isolation facility, said Grays Harbor County Commissioner Vickie Raines. She said quarantine and isolation is available to anybody who has tested positive for COVID-19, or is a close contact of someone else who has tested positive, and is unable to safely isolate or quarantine elsewhere.
“We were fortunate to work with the Econolodge until the county went to Phase 3 (of Gov. Jay Inslee’s safe start program),” said Raines. “When we were in Phase 1 the county had to have an isolation and quarantine facility in order for us to change phases.”
When the county moved into Phase 2 the requirement remained to maintain a quarantine facility, which was the Econolodge through June. At that time, the Econolodge was able to reopen, and an arrangement between the county and the Quinault Indian Nation was put in place to move the facility to the Sweet Grass effective July 1.
“When we moved into Phase 3 the Quinault Indian Nation decided to reopen the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino to a certain level, but chose not to open the Sweet Grass at that time,” said Raines. “It made the perfect scenario to move from the Econolodge to the Sweet Grass, and eventually to the facility (once open) that the county owns.”
According to numbers Raines obtained from the county, the total cost of isolation and quarantine efforts through Sept. 17 has been $230,000, including both the Econolodge and Sweet Grass, and is expected to be covered by federal COVID-19 relief funds.
“We are not paying a fee for use of the Sweet Grass, only support services and staff costs,” said Raines.
There is no contract or payment structure for rooms at the Sweet Grass between the county and the tribe. Rather, Raines explained, it’s a mutual aid type agreement. The county and the Quinault Indian Nation recognized the need for the facility, the Sweet Grass was available, and both tribal and non-tribal individuals have used it, said Raines.
The services provided and being paid for by the county at the facility include meals, transportation, laundry, frequent cleaning and disinfecting, and site monitoring, said Raines.
Some in the Ocean Shores community have expressed concern about having the facility there, but Raines said those inside the facility are of less risk of creating exposure than others. The numbers so far show that the large majority of those in quarantine or isolation are doing so within their own homes or somewhere other than the county facility.
There are security measures in place; if a person leaves the facility and tries to return, that person is not allowed back in. People using the facility must follow the rules and remain until it is considered safe for them to leave.
So far the county has spent $127,000 on the improvements to the 8th Street facility, said Raines, an expense also expected to be covered by federal COVID-19 funds.
The money laid out for quarantine and isolation expenses will be reimbursed via CARES Act, FEMA, or a combination of the two, relayed Raines. Much of the quarantine and isolation funding available federally comes from FEMA, “but getting reimbursed has been a challenge,” said Raines. “It’s understandable,” considering the current demand for federal relief dollars, “but challenging nonetheless.”