Travelers believed to be exposed to coronavirus will be quarantined at Shoreline site

Travelers believed to be exposed to coronavirus will be quarantined at Shoreline site
Certain travelers believed to be exposed to coronavirus will be quarantined in these RVs on Fircrest School property in Shoreline instead of the North Bend fire training academy.

SHORELINE, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Health announced that it has worked to identify several locations for a quarantine site to house travelers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The department said a state-owned property behind the Washington State Public Health Laboratory in Shoreline will be the latest site where travelers will be quarantined.

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“The purpose of quarantine is to prevent healthy people who’ve potentially been exposed to a communicable disease from spreading it to other people,” health officials said in a release.

Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman said the state identified this new site with RVs to be more optimal for quarantine than the North Bend Fire Training Academy.

“The Fire Training Academy was a site we had to quickly find -- it’s not an ideal site for this. We really want a site where everybody has their own bathroom. Where families can easily be together and not have sort of common spaces where people might mingle,” Weisman said.

He said the federal agencies told the state on Friday that they needed to have a site identified by Sunday, which is why the first choice was the training academy.

The state rented four RVs, which are now located on the edge of the Fircrest Residential Habilitation Center campus in a vacant lot. Three of the RVs are for people or families who need to be quarantined, and one is for staff.

There is also a large octagonal tent that’s equipped with power and supplies to serve as a command center for managing people who are quarantined, if necessary.

Healthy travelers coming from Hubei Province, China, would be sent to the site, according to health officials. Anyone in quarantine who becomes ill, would be evaluated and removed from the site.

Officials said the area is spacious and there are neighborhoods nearby but want to emphasize there is no risk to the public.

“We want to make sure that all the neighbors in this area know that this setup would be for healthy people,” says Department of Health Incident Commander Kevin Wickersham. “And for anyone who would stay here, we will go to any lengths to make them feel comfortable, and we will make good on that promise.”

However, people who have family members at the Fircrest RHC, also called Fircrest School, are concerned. The campus supports about 200 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“I’m emotionally involved because this is my daughter’s home,” said Chris Hartzog, during the question-and-answer portion of a community meeting on Friday afternoon. “I feel like this is a very bad choice -- it’s a highly populated area. You’ve got some of the most fragile and vulnerable people in the state living here."

Wiesman responded that the state is still looking for other possible sites, and added that one positive of RVs is that if another location is identified, the site can be easily moved.

The new site should be ready to go sometime over the weekend.

People who would stay at the quarantine site pose no risk to the public.

Health and King County leaders also gathered Friday to share how they’re responding to the novel coronavirus and to eliminate “harmful misperceptions” of the illness.

Public Health of Seattle and King County, and County Executive Down Constantine and other community leaders shared their perspectives about the impacts of coronavirus and approaches for addressing stigma.

Leaders shared that they’ve heard widespread reports of discrimination -- of people who look Chinese or Asian reporting they’re experiencing things like being told to “go back to China” or being asked if they have coronavirus.

“We’ve heard of a number of situations in the community, and we need to be forceful in saying no discrimination of any kind will be tolerated,” said Patty Hayes, the Director of Seattle & King County Public Health. “Showing fear or hostility towards someone based on how they look is not only hurtful, it can harm our ability to keep everyone healthy."