CORONAVIRUS: New information about King County’s planned Top Hat quarantine/isolation site

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

New information on the King County quarantine/isolation facility planned at 206 SW 112th [map] in Top Hat, just east of White Center, first announced Tuesday. The new details emerged in a conference call meeting that county reps organized for community members; we were on that call, which just concluded, for WSB and partner site White Center Now.

The site will start up with two 4-room trailers, with up to six more when a vacant building on the site is demolished. (Above is our photo of the first trailer that was delivered Tuesday – the county had 14 in storage on Harbor Island.) The county has now decided NOT to open the site until utilities including water/sewer are hooked up to the trailers’ built-in bathrooms – they originally had said they would start with portable toilets and hand-washing stations but have scrapped that plan. They expect the connections will be complete by the middle of next week.

The site will NOT have medical staff – but the county plans to “check in” with people at least twice a day. They also plan to deliver food and other supplies. And they will have 24-hour security who will “notify” county reps if someone leaves the site.

Who will be there? Criteria are still being developed, the county reps said. Three scenarios were mentioned for starters – people who are traveling and have nowhere else to go, people who are unhoused, people who can’t “self-quarantine” because of a situation at their home such as an at-risk person also living there.

How long will someone stay? If they’re being tested – until the test results are in, if those results are negative. If they’re ill, “until they’ve recovered.”

The call wasn’t strictly informational – strong opposition was voiced, primarily by people pointing out that the area is home to low-income people and other marginalized populations and should not have to bear this burden and risk. “10,000 people are opposed” was mentioned – apparently a reference to this online petition. But county reps were clear – this decision has been made and will not change.

Those on the call, besides several staffers from various county departments such as Local Services, included County Councilmember Joe McDermott and Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta. McDermott said County Executive Dow Constantine‘s request for emergency funding will be approved at next Tuesday’s King County Council meeting.

We have a few other details to add shortly.

ADDED 12:58 PM: First, for those wondering about the other two quarantine sites, the county has provided these addresses – 531 Elliott Avenue West [map] in Interbay and 1132 N. 128th Street [map] in North Seattle. The Top Hat site was formerly home to the Wilderness Technology Alliance.

Julie Hiatt of the North Highline Fire District, which serves the area, was on the call and said NHFD had not even had a meeting with the county to talk about this; one was promised. County reps also said they were not intending for NHFD to have to transport patients to/from the site; they are working with potential providers such as Tri-Med.

One community member on the call was aghast at the single-security-guard plan: “You’re bringing this into poor communties and telling us there’s going to be one security guard for people who might leave?” Security plans would be re-evaluated along the way, county reps said. Another community member: “If this is going to spread, this is not the community you want it to spread in – most (nearby) people don’t even have health insurance.” The site is in a densely populated area of North Highline, with neighboring apartment complexes including the huge new Southside by Vintage across SW 112th.

Another community member: “It seems like an experiment. … The community does not want this facility here. It’s going to cause death … There is death attached to this facility.” County reps countered that this was meant to save lives; Local Services director John Taylor countered, “The consequence to the community of not doing this could be disastrous.”

The call ended after an hour but more communication including an email list was promised.

40 Replies to "CORONAVIRUS: New information about King County's planned Top Hat quarantine/isolation site"

  • Amasea March 6, 2020 (12:47 pm)

    Curious how these quarantine sites are in a low-income, marginalized neighborhood, especially since it’s about as far away from Bothell and Kirkland, where the vast majority of COVID-19 cases have been found, as it could be and still be in the metro area. Curious how the mayor of Kent found out that a motel in her city would be a quarantine site from the rumor mill, not from the county government, and weren’t consulted at all in the decision. Where the median income is $61K, well below the “low-income” threshold of $72K in King County. Curious indeed.

    • PZ March 9, 2020 (10:12 pm)

      Doesn’t King County own property on the Eastside, where theCorona Virus outbreak  started?  Why not quarantine thereinstead of spreading the virus all over the County and in thelower income population?   Also great idea the Governor hadto have RV’s for self quarantining in Centralia, another low incomearea.  Remember elections do matter.

  • coffeedude March 6, 2020 (1:06 pm)

    I am just happy that the county was able to act fast and get something in place quickly.  As a person who has been notified that I was exposed to the virus at work, I am not upset that this is in the near area.  Fortunately for me, I did not get sick, and did not have to be quarantined.  I really don’t get this income issue and marginalized issue.  The county owns the land, they should be able to do something like this that is for the good of sick people.  Seems like anyplace it gets put people will complain.  

  • mark47n March 6, 2020 (1:18 pm)

    Huh. IT’s too bad we don’t have any decommissioned military bases where we could manage this…

    • Michael Ostrogorsky March 7, 2020 (1:17 pm)

      No Mark, the COUNTY does NOT have any decommissioned military bases where we could manage this. . . The county is using county property and county resources to address a county issue.

  • Thuy March 6, 2020 (1:37 pm)

    Where are those representatives who were elected to stand up for our marginalized, no medical insured, and voiceless population? Interesting indeed that the quarantine site is far away from Kirkland Eastside area! 

    • WSB March 6, 2020 (1:53 pm)

      As mentioned above, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who represents that area (as well as WS, Vashon), was on the call. State Rep. Joe Nguyen, who represents the area and is a former White Center resident, raised questions the first day (see our original WC Now story linked in the first line).

  • John March 6, 2020 (1:38 pm)

    Curious paranoia and ignorant assumptions have no place in this, AMASEA.Anyone taking the time to inform themself would not traffic in innuendo.   The requirements of the motel, besides being vacant and available  are specific to the degree they eliminate most motels – direct exterior doors (no common hallways)  and  non-centralized heat system.  The fact that it is a run down property in the armpit of a freeway interchange with no immediate neighbors also makes the Kent motel the choice.

    • Amasea March 7, 2020 (10:28 am)

      I agree the motel itself is an appropriate choice, in the abstract. And the idea of the county having such a facility for other communicable diseases is a good one, in the abstract. I even buy that it’s an appropriate location for a quarantine facility for quotidian public health issues. However, the distance from where the majority of patients are today, and the complete lack of communication with the local government, especially, are quite concerning.I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, specifically, just that areas like White Center that are unincorporated, with low property values (and people who are busy trying to survive and paying less attention to the news), are inevitably going to be near the top of the list for governments to opt for. If they’re NOT considering — and publicly addressing — how that appears, when those same sites are home to high-marginalization populations, there is going to be backlash. Marginalized communities aren’t dumb, but they’re sick of being treated like they are, having governments make decisions that affect them without their input, having their communities always be put at risk rather than spreading that risk throughout the region. Is there *some* representation here, to provide a voice? Sure, and I don’t envy Joe his job. But there’s no city council or mayor, and apparently even if there was they wouldn’t be looped in (see Kent). If King County doesn’t wish to be seen as ignoring local residents and perpetuating marginalization, they should be not only forthcoming with locals and their representatives about what went into the decision, but aggressively publicizing that rationale. Given the history of bias against low income and other marginalized communities in the past, the county has an additional burden to relieve what has been justified paranoia.I agree, ignorant assumptions shouldn’t be given a lot of credence — your assumption that I’m ignorant included. 

    • M. Sandling March 11, 2020 (10:19 am)

      No immediate neighbors? Are you serious? There are 5 MASSIVE apartment complexes close, one being on the opposite side of the Car lot. There are businesses, including Carpinitos and Dennys which are always very busy. You are putting people exposed to the virus, where they can leave FREELY to go get food or whatever… I’m sure it’s fine for you.  You are no where near it.  What about the elderly that life nearby? Those with underlying conditions? It’s somehow OK? It’s OK for the county to put other people at risk instead of simply doing a full quarantine. The problem is, they are not putting it in places like Kirkland… They are putting it in areas that can barely afford food, much less proper health care. Who cares if poor people die, huh? 

  • AMD March 6, 2020 (1:53 pm)

    I’m curious what amazing alternate plans all these people that are complaining have.  It sounds like they’d rather have people with the virus wandering around the streets in their communities the whole time they’re sick rather than having a safe place to go that is KNOWN to community members so it can be avoided, just because of the potential that someone might leave and rejoin the community sooner than recommended?  I am glad county leaders are moving forward with the plans.

  • KBear March 6, 2020 (2:05 pm)

    Good grief, people. This is not some sort of conspiracy against low income or otherwise marginalized people. They’re trying to save lives. They had to act quickly, using a site that was readily available. Opposing the county’s emergency response efforts is only going to make things worse.

    • Gene March 6, 2020 (2:45 pm)

       I agree -happy they’re going to wait until sewer & water get hooked up-a bit concerning that folks can just come & go however. I guess the alternative would be involuntary isolation-hopefully that wouldn’t be necessary-but the space in those containers looks like it could feel claustrophobic after a bit.

    • flimflam March 6, 2020 (2:49 pm)

      seems that there is/needs to be some level of outrage at just about anything that happens nowadays…

  • Elton March 6, 2020 (3:10 pm)

    For the people who are unhappy with the location choice, what alternatives are they bringing up? It’s not like there’s easily affordable and quickly procurable sites in Capitol Hill or Ballard. I’m especially confused about the concern of infecting the immediate community – this is quarantine housing – it’s not expected that these people would walk around grabbing coffee and such.    

    • Sam March 6, 2020 (4:15 pm)

      Elton from the post

      they will have 24-hour security who will “notify” county reps if someone leaves the site.

      Read between the lines. These people free to leave when ever they want.

      • AMD March 6, 2020 (5:39 pm)

        Is it actually legal to hold people in confinement against their will without some kind of court action?  Are we going to have everyone go through the courts so that they can be held until everyone in the neighborhood is comfortable letting them go?  Or just use the honor system because these are sick people who otherwise don’t have shelter anyway so it doesn’t make any sense that they’d all want to wander out to grab coffee three times a day.

        • WSB March 6, 2020 (5:47 pm)

          That first question came up and is being looked into.

  • Mark Ufkes March 6, 2020 (3:54 pm)

    I am a White Center resident and I am honored that our community gets to help all of King County get through this crisis.  The site will serve families just like yours and mine.   Mark Ufkes 

  • Ali March 6, 2020 (4:47 pm)

    I’m super happy to read the common sense comments. Right now people are walking around with this virus. Quarantines are important. 

  • HS March 6, 2020 (5:34 pm)

    If we need more space the downtown Macy’s could be leased (?). However, that area may be too densely populated.

  • Ice March 6, 2020 (6:02 pm)

    I am surprised they aren’t going to have a nurse on-site just to make sure everyone is actually getting the care they need if they do turn out to be sick. However, nurses aren’t easy to hire, especially on short notice, and they are expensive.

  • A-Lex March 6, 2020 (6:16 pm)

    For those not paying attention:A hotel was purchased in Kirkland last week to house people affected by COVID-19, so Kirkland and Bothell are not going to be shipping people to this facility. The people housed there will be local. As for the poor and downtrodden, Interbay is right between Magnolia and Queen Anne, two very high income neighborhoods. The facilities are those the county can quickly locate and act on. We all want that, don’t we? Or would you prefer the whole state to be quarantined?

    • WSB March 6, 2020 (11:33 pm)

      No, a hotel was not purchased in Kirkland. The county has purchased one in Kent.

    • Brittany March 8, 2020 (10:44 pm)

      This is just not true

  • Johny be good March 6, 2020 (10:38 pm)

    Is it possible to file a cease and desist against the county? 

    • WSB March 6, 2020 (11:09 pm)

      Certainly anyone can sue. Kent is doing that over the motel (though their bid for a temporary restraining order was denied tonight).

    • Roozter March 8, 2020 (2:07 pm)

      Of course. But they’ll lose, just like in Kent. 

  • Mnn March 7, 2020 (5:55 am)

    I completely support our local public health and government in this matter. There has not been a lot of fast and ample support thus far from the federal government unfortunately. These units are for people who don’t have the ability to self quarantine in a safe place. These are local people who would otherwise be in the community spreading the virus like wildfire, being in stores, coffee shops, etc.  They are well enough to be at “home” if they had a home. They are likely people who are doing the right thing and asking for help with quarantine. We should make them feel welcome and thank them for quarantining themselves. As a healthcare provider, I have not heard anything about being being court ordered to quarantine, especially well people. Reminder that the virus is mostly spread by respiratory droplets by symptomatic people within 6 feet. Not by simply being a neighbor! Statements like this facility is going to cause death are unhelpful and just wrong. They feed into the hysteria.Please take care of yourself: wash hands, don’t touch your face, self quarantine if you’re sick. We have to watch out for each other and be kind.

  • Sarah March 7, 2020 (8:24 am)

    My main concern here is how effectively this quarantine is going to be enforced. If someone is feeling okay and is told they still have a week or two to sit in a small room and go nowhere, you’re going to have people attempting to leave. There’s a bus stop just a few steps from these buildings. What’s going to happen when someone breaks quarantine and gets on a crowded bus going downtown?

  • Norman March 7, 2020 (9:17 am)

    I wonder why somebody has not checked in with who ever owns the Sea land area where the Seattle city dump was and put a whole quarantined hub down there. It is isolated a way from the general population and it is empty. Makes dam good sense to me.

    • dsa March 8, 2020 (11:13 pm)

      Maybe because it was a landfill dump before it was a transfer site dump.

  • BDR March 7, 2020 (3:11 pm)

    I find it hard to believe anyone would stay in a room that is 65 sq ft with no windows, no access to store or cook food for more than 1 or 2 days if they are feeling remotely healthy.  Is the city going to pay for these people to order food in so they can eat what and when they want to? Hopefully the City will provide TVs and free internet access. Can you imagine having to stay in a room like that with nothing to do and you cannot leave? It could get ugly very quickly.

    • dsa March 8, 2020 (11:10 pm)

      solitary confinement

  • S Riley March 8, 2020 (7:22 pm)

    Maybe you would not agree with this location if your children lived two blocks from there  – like mine do.

    • M. Sandling March 11, 2020 (10:23 am)

      Exactly.  I live in the closest complex with my special needs child and disabled husband who has multiple conditions that make this disease deadly.It’s somehow OK to put them here with zero movement restrictions… No concern for those of us who live and work here. 

  • K March 8, 2020 (7:53 pm)

    They could have set it up in one of the many unused areas of the Seatac/ Highline Park, to actually quarantine them the correct way, which is to keep them away from other people.

  • Bradley March 11, 2020 (12:34 am)

    SECURITY GUARD: “Hey, you can’t leave”. QUARANTINED PERSON: “Yes I can” SECURITY GUARD: “Oh, ok”

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