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King County judge rejects Kent restraining order over coronavirus motel

King County purchased a motel in Kent to quarantine coronavirus patients. (Deedee Sun/KIRO 7)

The news is not just that Kent Mayor Dana Ralph declared a state of emergency in her city, but she announced that her administration has filed a legal action against King County to prevent the opening of a motel that’s supposed to be staging as a quarantine facility for patients with the coronavirus. It has since been denied.

Mayor Ralph joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss the motel and why she’s concerned about the community at large.

“We spoke with King County this morning and they told us that they were actually planning on starting to move patients into the facility as early as this evening, which is about nine days shorter than what they had told us on Wednesday,” she said.

“We talked to them about the permit process, and they said that they didn’t have any intention of applying for a conditional use permit, which is required by code. That’s what allows us to make sure that the facility is safe for the use that’s happening, and we didn’t feel any other recourse but to ask for the temporary restraining order so that we could ensure the safety of not only the patients there but also our community at large.”

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On Wednesday King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the EconoLodge in Kent had been purchased to use as a quarantine site for those have or are suspected to have coronavirus. The EconoLodge is a two-story, 84-room motel just off Highway 67.

“We had asked the court for a temporary restraining order, we’ve just received back in the last few minutes that the court did not grant our temporary restraining order, they put some conditions on it. They’re going to allow the county to have up to 15 people housed there, which is a little less than a third of the rooms, and then we will continue the court conversation into next week.”

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“I am pleased that they obviously recognize that we do have serious concerns, otherwise they would have allowed full occupancy, but disappointed we’re moving forward as early as this evening.”

Mayor Ralph said she’s worried that the quarantine setup has been rushed, and is concerned about the implications for the community at large.

“We don’t know what sort of things needed to be done to the facility to ensure the safety of the people being quarantined there, and they’ve not been able to articulate it to us in any way that they’ve got protocols in place to keep the community at large safe.”

“We’re going to continue to work through the court process, and we’re going to continue to reach out to King County and engage in conversation … We believe we deserve to be involved in the decision-making process in making sure that I can look my residents in the eye as well as the people that are being quarantined in the facility and say, ‘This is safe and this is what makes sense.'”

The Office of King County Executive Dow Constantine released the following statement after a King County Superior Court judge denied a temporary restraining order, with a few conditions:

“On March 1, Executive Constantine issued a proclamation of emergency allowing King County to take extraordinary measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including acquiring property essential for public health. To quickly set up housing for those recovering from sickness or directed by Public Health – Seattle & King County to remain in isolation, King County is prioritizing locations that meet Public Health’s requirements. The motel in Kent was the only site on the market that included separate HVAC in each unit, and separate doors to the outside. Kent is one of four sites across the region pressed into service in the fight against COVID-19. The others include: Interbay, North Seattle, and White Center.”

“King County will continue to identify and acquire properties in all parts of the county to ensure residents, including health care workers and first-responders who come into contact with COVID-19, are housed appropriately.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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