No county COVID-19 isolations to date
The COVID-19 isolation center established by Marion County at the Woodburn Super 8 Motel has not yet seen any quarantine activity.
The county established the facility, as per state order, so that county residents who may have been exposed to the coronavirus and do not have the means to self-isolate for two weeks would have a place where that would be possible. Each county in the state is required to have such a facility as part of the state's reopening stipulations.
The center has been a source of controversy in Woodburn, eliciting a lawsuit filed by the city on grounds that it violates municipal land-use and zoning codes. The county's counsel advised that establishing the isolation center fits into the statute under its declared state of emergency due to COVID-19.
Marion County Analyst Chad Ball said Wednesday, July 8, that the county has been renting the Super 8 since July 1. Last week, the motel owners replaced a number of mattresses, moving old mattresses outside in the process. That activity elicited safety concerns and reactions from some Woodburn residents, including some that were expressed on social media.
"Currently, there are no guests at the hotel," Ball said. "We spoke with the hotel owner yesterday and the mattresses were removed (July 7). The mattresses were pulled from rooms on Tuesday (June 30), before Marion County started renting rooms.
"The replacement of mattresses is a normal process for hotels to go through."
Marion County Board of Commissioners were further briefed on the isolation center's status during a July 8 meeting.
"We do not have any guests in the hotel at this point in time," said Katrina Rothenberger, the county's public health director. "We have staff who are assigned to the hotel, and they're making sure that folks understand the safety protocols. For staff, when they come in, they will be doing a health screening, making sure they have plenty of personal protective equipment and just preparing for the day when we need to put someone in the hotel for isolation and quarantine."
Commissioner Kevin Cameron said he anticipates having an update on the isolation center status every week.
Commissioner Sam Brentano posed: "That it stays empty?"
"Yes, that would be nice, but we've got it if we need it," Cameron replied.
As of July 8, the county has had 1,697 cases, confirmed and presumptive, with 217 requiring hospitalization; 51 deaths. More than half of the cases, about 54%, are in the age group between 20 and 50 — that age group constitutes about 39% of the county's overall population. By contrast, ages 0-19 constitutes almost 30% of the population but only 8.6% of the COVID-19 cases.
Rothenberger apprised the commission that 9.9% of county residents tested between June 25 and July 5 tested positive; the previous week's number was 7.7%.
Earlier this spring, Marion County had the highest per capita positive cases, but several other counties have surpassed it in recent weeks, which means the virus is spreading throughout the state, the health director pointed out.
Marion County is also meeting its state-issued requirements, including those that monitor strain on health-care resources.
"The goal for emergency department visits for COVID-19-like illness are required to be below 1.5%; we are currently at 0.7%," Rothenberger said.
The county has also beefed up personnel focused on tracking and quelling the virus spread, with 89 people directly responding to the virus in some capacity, including 33 in the disease investigation group. The county is also hiring more contact tracers, training and adding four more per week to the 33 currently staffed on its surveillance team.
"We're looking forward to expanding that capability over the next month and a half," Rothenberger said, noting that space restrictions necessitate many working remotely, including a number of them in Woodburn.
Like most areas nationwide, Marion County remains alert to how holiday activities may affect the numbers.
"I'm curious to see what the 4th of July holiday will bring us in terms of new cases, but in terms of other areas of instability, I think we have a handle on most," Rothenberger said, noting that if there is a spike from the holiday, those cases would likely emerge the following week.
The county is also working on a process where it can help the University of Oregon develop a saliva test, which if realized, would afford a higher capacity for testing, lower costs per test and a less invasive method of testing.
On July 9 the city of Woodburn announced that it filed a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court, seeking a court order against the county's operation of the isolation center at Super 8 Motel on the grounds that it violates the city's zoning and development ordinance.
The suit follows up on actions taken by the Woodburn City Council during an emergency session held June 25.
The city also maintains that the center poses a safety hazard to the surrounding area, which includes a number of retirement homes and assisted living facilities.
City officials said they were first notified about the county's plans for the isolation and quarantine center on June 16.
"We were surprised and concerned to learn of the county's proposed use of the Super 8 Hotel as a COVID-19 site," City Administrator Scott Derickson said in the city's announcement. "Had the city and the community been afforded an opportunity to participate in the county's planning and due diligence process, I believe the current issue could have been avoided. As it stands, the city believes that the use of the Super 8 Hotel as a COVID-19 Isolation Shelter violates existing law."
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