The county in Washington state that covers Seattle is using part of its airport to house the homeless who are at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Officials anticipate “hundreds or thousands” of people who will be quarantined in the coming weeks and will need places to go, said Leo Flor, director of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services, according to The Seattle Times.
In addition to using Arrivals Hall at King County International Airport / Boeing Field, a general aviation airport, the county is building tents in a parking lot in Bellevue, and is leasing a motel in Issaquah — both cities near Seattle. All of the actions are temporary for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.
The airport space will be used by about 80 homeless men aged 55 and over who were living in a Seattle homeless shelter in which the mats for sleeping were about six inches apart.
In Bellevue, a heated tent will be erected at the Eastgate parking lot for isolation and recovery.
In Issaquah, a leased motel will be used for “medical support for vulnerable populations or isolation for people who do not require significant social support services,” the county said in a release, according to The Seattle Times.
“These types of medical facilities are needed throughout King County as we, as a region, respond to this public health crisis,” Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly Pauly said.
“We are in close contact with King County, local police and firefighters to ensure this new facility will take all necessary precautions to keep our broader community safe.”
On Friday, a homeless individual who was being tested for the virus walked away from an emergency quarantine facility that had been placed at a motel in Kent, according to the The Seattle Times.
The individual’s test later came back negative for the virus.
“The things we predicted have happened,” said Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said after the incident was disclosed.
“I’m angry, I’m frustrated and I feel like our entire city, through this process, continues to be disrespected,” Ralph said.
King County Department of Community and Human Services director Leo Flor said numbers are overwhelming the system.
“How many positive cases do we have in Washington or King County right now? Hundreds,” Flor said. “
We don’t know where all of those people are. In fact, if a person has a home of their own, they go back to their home and nobody hears about it. We don’t know where they are. They isolate and quarantine in place.”
“We are not legally compelling them to stay in any one place,” Flor said. “If they choose not to do that, that is an individual decision that people can make.”
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