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Rantz: People keep leaving coronavirus quarantine motel for beer

King County bought this motel in Kent to quarantine people with coronavirus. (KRO 7 screegrab)

People living in the coronavirus quarantine motel in Kent keep leaving the site, sometimes to buy beer at the gas station across the street. This news comes just days after the EconoLodge Motel was vandalized by squatters.

Against the better judgment of Kent officials, King County purchased the motel to serve as a quarantine site for coronavirus patients (or those suspected of having exposure) can self-isolate. So far, the plan has been an abject disaster.

Now, people keep leaving quarantine. And the Kent chief of police is livid.

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Ditching coronavirus quarantine for beer

According to a report by KIRO 7 TV, at least three people ditched the quarantine motel site. At least one of the men had tested positive for coronavirus.

One man under quarantine left the motel three separate times last Wednesday to visit the Shell gas station next door to buy beer. Video surveillance shows the man wasn’t even wearing a mask over his face and nose. After he made the purchase, he returned to the motel.

Security on-site had no authority to keep the men under coronavirus quarantine at the time. Staying at the motel is voluntary, even if you’re positive for coronavirus. After one of these incidents, the county successfully filed a public health order compelling the individual to stay in self-isolation.

An angry police chief

Kent PD Chief Rafael Padilla isn’t happy. He understands the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and that people at-risk could become exposed to the deadly virus thanks to these selfish people.

“We’ve all agreed that this is a deadly serious issue and we’re not taking the right steps in every way that we could,” Padilla warned KIRO 7 TV.

“People are dying. If it’s serious, then take serious action. Serious action includes commitment orders for the people who won’t self-isolate. If they’re unwilling to keep the rest of us safe then I think the government has a role to take a step and actually commit people,” Padilla said.

Are they homeless?

There is unconfirmed speculation that some of the men under coronavirus quarantine are homeless. This is an important detail.

After a man suspected of carrying COVID-19 left the motel, allegedly shoplifting items from a nearby store before hopping on a bus out of Kent, the county promised changes. Officials pledged that this site wouldn’t house people in need of social services and help with homelessness. Homeless or not, leaving a quarantine site three times, in a single day, for beer isn’t typical behavior for someone who isn’t in need of some kind of more serious supervision.

The Public Health public information officer has not yet returned my request for comment.

Where is the plan?

When I covered this story recently, I noted there still doesn’t seem to be a plan in place to deal with the realities of such a coronavirus quarantine site. Construction wasn’t done and there’s been little guidance publicly available on rules and regulations for the site.

We know the coronavirus spreads easily and can be deadly. So why is it so easy to get out of self-isolation? What’s the purpose of on-site security if they’re helpless when people with coronavirus want to leave for a quick beer run?

If you’re going to operate this site, have some real security. Doors should be locked. There should be one point of entry to make sure you can better track who comes in and out.

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Finally, you should legally compel, via a public health order, individuals to stay indoors. This shouldn’t be seen as controversial. This coronavirus quarantine location is for individuals who can’t otherwise self-isolate. They’re coming to us for help. We should be able to put in place reasonable rules. Don’t like it? Don’t self-isolate here.

Does that risk them further spreading coronavirus elsewhere? Hardly. They’re already not following the rules, putting people at risk. Without a way to compel them to stay, they’re risking people’s lives by spreading the coronavirus, while getting a free room out of it.

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. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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