Quarantine site planned in Woodburn
Marion County Health and Human Services has finalized a contract with Super 8 Motel in Woodburn, which would provide short-term lodging for residents who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 concerns.
Marion County Board of Commissioners approved the contract Wednesday, June 24.
Marion County Analyst Chad Ball said the county will rent rooms for residents with a possible exposure or a confirmed case of COVID-19, who have mild symptoms and cannot otherwise self-isolate. Commissioner Kevin Cameron said as an example, a room may be made available to someone who has been exposed to the virus and lives in a small home with other family members where self-isolation is not available.
Ball explained that the contract is a requirement under Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's phased reopening framework, and is intended to ensure the county is prepared to protect residents and prevent the spread of the virus as the state moves forward with reopening.
"This is a required resource for many people in our community who do not have other means to protect friends, coworkers, or loved ones from COVID-19 if they have a confirmed case or have been exposed," Marion County Public Health Director, Katrina Rothenberger said. "The hotel will allow us to slow the spread of COVID-19 by giving those with no place else to go, a place to safely isolate."
The $2.1 million contract is with BP Hospitality, LLC, and funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act. It will furnish enough funds for the motel to have 100% occupancy for 9 months, on which city of Woodburn receives a 9% transient occupancy tax.
Cameron said the county looked at other locations, including motels in Salem, and the 81-room Super 8 in Woodburn was preferred for a variety of reasons, including the services offered and rooms that have outdoor entries, no hallways, affording adequate distancing.
A typical term of stay will be 14 days to isolate and quarantine, depending on the time frame of when the individual developed symptoms or was exposed to the virus, according to Ball. The county anticipates that 10 to 15 individuals will be housed in the hotel initially.
Each guest is required to sign a "Standards of Conduct Agreement," outlining acceptable behaviors and expectations while in isolation.
County officials also stressed that security will be at the hotel 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. Guests will not leave the facility during the isolation period and Marion County staff will tend to the needs of the individuals, including food, laundry, cleaning and wellness checks.
Ball further noted that before individuals leave the hotel, their symptoms will have been monitored for a minimum of three days by the on-site public health nurse, and transportation will be coordinated to return the individual to their community upon leaving the site.
The county will begin managing the facility on July 1.
City of Woodburn spokesman Tommy Moore said upon learning of Marion County's shelter plans, city officials reached out to county officials seeking additional information, specifically inquiring about public safety impacts and mitigation, potential land use issues and the need for public outreach and input prior to operating the facility.
"Our conversations with the county remain ongoing," Moore said.
"We have been in conversation with the county since we learned of this plan on June 16," Woodburn Police Chief Jim Ferraris said. "We are looking forward to hearing more from the county as well as hearing input from our community so that the county can address community and city concerns."
Cameron said once a contract is signed with Super 8, he anticipates more discussion on the topic at the county Board of Commissioners meetings.
Moore said the city expects the same.
"It is expected that the Woodburn City Council will review this issue prior to the proposed July 1 date of operation," Moore noted. "As appropriate, the city will provide additional information to the community."
Some social media comments speculated that inmates would be lodged at the quarantine facility.
Cameron said that is not the case. The county has identified five current Oregon State Penitentiary inmates who could become eligible for parole after July 1. Since there have been virus outbreaks at OSP, anyone released would be required to self-isolate for two weeks, and if any of those parolees do not have living situations where they can achieve that, they would be eligible.
"This is not a prison; no one who is serving time in a sentence will spend time in this hotel," Commissioner Colm Willis emphasized during the commission's June 24 meeting. "This is a necessary resource to keep our community safe...and this is a condition for us (Marion County) being in Phase 2 (reopening)."
That condition applies statewide.
"This is not unique to Marion County; every county has to do this," Cameron said. "I heard one county...the administrator in Lane County, purchased a hotel. We don't want to be in the hotel business; we want to keep those in the hands of private businesses that pay taxes."
The following Question and Answer information on Marion County's proposed COVID-19 isolation shelter in Woodburn is from dialogue between city officials and Marion County Health & Human Services.
City of Woodburn: How was the location chosen?
Marion County Health & Human Services: We reached out to several hotel owners to pursue an agreement. We had very limited options, one in Salem and one in Woodburn that were willing to enter into a block room lease agreement. Ultimately, the Woodburn location was selected because it provided the best layout to protect the health and safety of the guests, staff, and the community as a whole and had sufficient size (81 rooms). This was the only hotel available to us that was willing to have hotel staff maintain 24/7 coverage to continue day to day operations.
COW: How long is the program expected to last?
MCHHS: The current lease is for 9 months. We anticipate the project to end at that time, unless the impacts from COVID-19 on our community require that we extend the lease to maintain sufficient isolation and quarantine capacity.
COW: How many guests or patients would be staying on-site?
MCHHS: This number will fluctuate. The facility has 81 individual rooms. We expect that most individuals will be in the room alone, unless they are a parent accompanying a child, or a family. We do not expect the facility to be full at all times. Based on historical estimates the daily occupancy will be in the 10-15 range, but we required sufficient capacity in case of a large scale outbreak.
COW: Will medical care will be provided to guests, and to what extent?
MCHHS: We will have a nurse on-site daily to monitor symptoms of guests. We will have staff on-site 24 hours a day to respond to any patient needs that arise. If additional medical care is needed, individuals will be sent to the hospital. No direct medical services will be conducted on the hotel grounds.
COW: How will food and beverage services be provided?
MCHHS: We are working with several food vendors in the area to create menus for guests to place orders. Orders will be delivered to the facility doors, then hotel staff will deliver the meals to individual rooms by leaving the food at the door. They will then call the guest to let them know food is outside of their room. These will be contactless deliveries on every end.
COW: What are the details on the Standards of Conduct Agreement and what security will look like on-site?
MCHHS: The Standards of Conduct Agreement must be signed by each individual staying at the facility. Guests will agree to remain in their assigned rooms for the duration of their stay, and to notify staff if at any point they need assistance. No weapons of any kind will be permitted on the property. The Marion County Sheriff's Office will be monitoring the facility 24/7.
COW: Will any part of the hotel remain open to the public?
MCHHS : No. The county is leasing the entire facility and no one will be permitted inside other than staff or those who are in isolation.
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