Court upholds Marion County's position on COVID-19 isolation center in Woodburn
The COVID-19 isolation center in Woodburn is here to stay — at least for now.
A judge ruled in favor of Marion County Thursday, Sept. 24, in a complaint filed by the city of Woodburn regarding the establishment of a COVID-19 isolation center at the Woodburn Super 8 Hotel.
After hearing closing arguments, Marion County Circuit Court Judge Mary James ruled that the county's legal standing was valid in the lawsuit, which was filed at the behest of the Woodburn city council on July 9.
Both parties submitted considerable testimony to the court since early July, with the city primarily contending that the center violated city land-use codes, while the county stressed state of emergency conditions and state mandates.
Marion County established the state-mandated COVID-19 isolation center on July 1 as a requirement for the partial reopening of businesses and activities that had been severely curbed to circumvent the spread of the pandemic. The county's Public Health and Human Services Department finalized a deal with Super 8 in June and the county Board of Commissioners approved it June 24.
Marion County's COVID-19 isolation center at the Super 8 Hotel in Woodburn was established to provide short-term lodging for residents who needed to self-isolate due to COVID-19 concerns, but were unable to do so at home. More than a dozen county residents successfully isolated at the facility for the required two-week period before the facility was converted into a refuge for families displaced due to recent wildfire evacuations.
Yamhill County agreed to house Marion County residents in need of COVID-19 isolation at its center to facilitate the Super 8's use as a wildfire refuge.
Marion County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley issued a statement regarding the decision on behalf of county officials: "We are grateful for the judge's decision and thankful to have a resource to serve the needs of our community."
The decision to locate the mandated center in Woodburn drew considerable discussion on social media and even sparked a protest outside the facility, with some concerned that it could put the city's elderly population at risk and that the facility would house convicted criminals.
Marion County officials acknowledged that county residents serving prison or jail terms who became eligible for parole could be candidates for isolation. The county also provided a specific protocol for transportation, housing, operation, care and security at the site.
The legal challenge, however, hinged on city codes.
City of Woodburn spokesman Tommy Moore issued a statement from city officials regarding the court decision:
"The city is disappointed in today's ruling and disagrees with the judge on the application of the law. The city will continue to evaluate our options in the upcoming days and weeks."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.