In Letter to Inslee, Herrera Beutler Renews Criticism of Centralia Quarantine Facility

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Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, on Monday sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office again requesting information on the decision-making that led the state Department of Health to relocate its sole isolation and quarantine facility to a hotel in Centralia. 

“I write to emphasize the Centralia community’s intensifying concerns with the state-run COVID-isolation facility and Department of Corrections holding center located at the Lakeview Inn,” the Washington representative starts in her letter. “I have yet to receive a response to any of the questions I sent you on May 19 on behalf of Lewis County citizens, so am reliant on the ongoing reporting of local media to gather additional information. What they have illuminated has only increased the outrage of local residents and businesses.”

The facility opened last month at the 40-room Lakeview Inn, located just off Interstate 5 in Centralia. Its opening has since drawn the ire of local lawmakers and community leaders, who say they were caught off guard by the move. Many have since urged the state to move the site. 

The Department of Health’s isolation and quarantine facility was previously located at a Jewish summer camp in Thurston County that had been closed due to the pandemic. The site was moved as the camp planned to reopen. 

Many counties have operated similarly-run sites on a smaller scale, the Department of Health has said. 

Herrera Beutler in her last inquiry to the state asked for the criteria and reasoning that went into the relocation to Lewis County. 

Nathan Weed, DOH’s acting assistant secretary for preparedness and response, recently told Lewis County commissioners during a meeting that one of the variables that went into their decision to move the site was its proximity to Tumwater, where the state agency is headquartered. Herrera Beutler noted that she read about that detail in The Chronicle. 

“From the first revelation that the state was dropping this COVID facility in the middle of Centralia without notifying the community, to learning that the comfort and convenience of state employees was a determining factor in this decision, the state has had its priorities totally backward in each step of this process,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “Congress did not approve and send Washington state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID aid to prioritize the commutes of government employees over the safety and well-being of the community it’s supposed to be serving.”

The Department of Health told Lewis County commissioners it’s possible they could identify a more permanent site and be out of Lewis County by the end of July. Herrera Beutler said it would be “prudent to commit to and expedite” that action. 

Herrera Beutler’s full letter is below: 

Dear Governor Inslee,

I write to emphasize the Centralia community’s intensifying concerns with the state-run COVID-isolation facility and Department of Corrections holding center located at the Lakeview Inn. I have yet to receive a response to any of the questions I sent you on May 19 on behalf of Lewis County citizens, so am reliant on the ongoing reporting of local media to gather additional information. What they have illuminated has only increased the outrage of local residents and businesses. 

One of the questions I posed to you on May 19 was: What criteria was used to conclude that a motel in a commercial district in Centralia was the best option available to the Department of Health (DOH)? The Chronicle Newspaper has reported that the Lakeview Inn was chosen because, according to DOH staff, it would ease the commute for state employees.

From the first revelation that the state was dropping this COVID facility in the middle of Centralia without notifying the community, to learning that the comfort and convenience of state employees was a determining factor in this decision, the state has had its priorities totally backward in each step of this process. Congress did not approve and send Washington state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID aid to prioritize the commutes of government employees over the safety and well-being of the community it’s supposed to be serving.

The Lewis County Commission has justifiably demanded that this site be closed and relocated. While it is with some relief that I read in the newspaper that the Department of Health may be considering a more permanent location by the end of July, it would be prudent to commit to and expedite that action.

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