The Washington Department of Health says it has come to an agreement to use Centralia’s Lakeview Inn as a quarantine and isolation facility for people who have contracted COVID-19.
The facility is expected to open Friday and serve state work release inmates, shipping and vessel crews and travelers who contract the virus while traveling through the state and local municipalities.
News of the facility’s move from Thurston County to Lewis County came last week in relatively last-minute fashion as the state was looking to quickly finalize talks with the motel owner.
The approach has been a point of friction between the state and local leaders. There have also been some worries of infected patients wandering out into the community and staffing levels.
At a Lewis County commissioners meeting Wednesday morning, Wayne Clifford, medical surge branch director with the Department of Health, apologized for the last-minute notification. The Department of Health originally had at least a few months to find a new facility and work out all the logistical concerns.
“I know that it’s been a rushed process and caught you a little off-guard — and, again, I apologize for that — but we’re here to make it successful for all of us, and so we’ll stay in good communication,” Clifford said.
He also said Department of Corrections work release patients receiving treatment at the Lakeview Inn will not be allowed to leave the facility, and that doing so would subject them to being sent back to jail.
Non-Department of Corrections patients are also required to stay at the site, Clifford said, in order to break the cycle of infection and to cut off the spread of COVID-19.
“We don’t have the authority to detain people against their will. That would be in the jurisdiction of the local health officer. But those are really strong terms and we’ve never had to approach anything like that. People are generally wanting to get through this because their employer wants to get back (to work),” Clifford said.
Camp Solomon Schechter, a Jewish summer camp in Tumwater, has hosted the isolation and quarantine facility for the last few months, but just recently voiced plans to reopen this summer.
The program is completely voluntary for those workers and travelers in transit through the state who contract the viral disease. People usually stay between 10 to 14 days in the isolation and quarantine facilities, and Department of Health staff provide around-the-clock service.
Lakeview Inn has about 40 rooms currently being outfitted for the facility.
“The optics of doing that in our community were concerning, probably from my perspective more so than the risk of infection spreading,” said Lewis County Public Health Director JP Anderson on Tuesday.
He also noted that he is confident the Department of Health will be able to safely operate the site, though there were concerns voiced by Lewis County commissioners.
The commissioners also aired concerns at Wednesday’s meeting that having the facility would overwhelm services and hospital bed limits for COVID-19 patients set by the governor. Clifford said they’ve only had to transport patients two or three times to local hospitals to receive elevated care.
Chronicle Reporter Claudia Yaw contributed to this story.