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King County to buy Kent motel to house coronavirus patients

King County plans to buy the Econo Lodge in Kent to house people infected with coronavirus.

KENT, Wash. — King County intends to purchase a Kent motel to house people infected by the coronavirus.

The motel is the Econo Lodge on Central Avenue, directly next to Highway 167. It could house a little more than 80 patients.

King County Executive Dow Constantine suggested Monday that the purchase would occur as an extreme measure to combat the outbreak.

King County plans to purchase the motel for $4 million using funds from the Facilities Management Division of the Department of Executive Services, as well as asking the County Council for an appropriation from the rainy day fund to help cover the costs of purchase and operation. 

The Econo Lodge was identified because it's the only site on the market that met King County Public Health's criteria, including separate HVAC units in each room and separate doors for each unit that open to the outside, not a hallway. 

RELATED: King County setting up isolation units amid coronavirus outbreak

Kent’s mayor and police chief have expressed their displeasure with the move, which came through emergency financing and without council backing.

Mayor Dana Ralph said during a news conference Wednesday Kent didn't know about King County's plans until a third party told the city on Monday.

According to Ralph, King County plans to move patients into the Econo Lodge in the next nine to 10 days, but the county hasn’t yet asked the city about permits or occupancy.

"We want the county’s response to be successful, but we are concerned about the county’s lack of a concrete plan," Ralph said.

Ralph said she was worried about the public health and safety implications of the quarantine site, including a lack of restrictions keeping patients inside the facility. If patients were free to leave and visit nearby businesses, it could create a public health hazard.

“We firmly believe this is an equity issue," Ralph said. "The county intends to bring sick people from wealthier and less diverse communities and drop them off in Kent without regard for our community or the people in it.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, 10 people in King and Snohomish counties have died from the coronavirus, and 39 people have tested positive for the virus, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

What are coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization. Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to DOH.

Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.

A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, and what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

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