Kent police chief angry people walked away from coronavirus quarantine

VIDEO: Anger in Kent after at least 3 people ordered to quarantine in motel walked away

KENT, Wash. — There is anger in Kent after at least three people ordered to quarantine in a downtown motel walked away last week.

At least three times Wednesday, a man seen in surveillance video with his face mask pulled-down left quarantine at the former EconoLodge on Central Avenue North, walked across the street to a Shell Station – bought beer – then returned to quarantine, according to Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla, who told KIRO 7, the risk of people being able to walk away from quarantine “is what we’re all trying to prevent.”

“We’ve all agreed that this is a deadly serious issue and we’re not taking the right steps in every way that we could,” Padilla said.

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It’s not known whether the man had tested positive – or negative – for the coronavirus; only that he was in quarantine.

However, according to Padilla, two other people ordered in quarantine at the site also walked away last week, including one who had tested positive for COVID 19.

According to Padilla, “there will continue to be a percentage of people that will not follow the law, and that’s when I think government needs to step in.”

Padilla is frustrated that not even hired security on-site has the authority to detain patients as Leo Flor, Director of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services explained last month. “It is a voluntary system,” Flor said when news broke March 13 that a man -- who later tested negative for COVID 19 -- had also walked away. “There is not a public health order that can compel the person to stay where they are.”

That appears to have changed.

In response to KIRO 7’s questions Monday about the recent incidents, a spokesperson for the DCHS emailed that one of the individuals who left the site was “convinced to return to the motel. A public health order was filed the next day to compel this person to stay in isolation and he is currently complying with that order.”

Padilla thinks such public health orders are necessary.

“People are dying. If it’s serious, then take serious action. Serious action includes commitment orders for the people who won’t self-isolate. If they’re unwilling to keep the rest of us safe then I think the government has a role to take a step and actually commit people,” Padilla said.

Rupali Handa, who works at the Shell Station across the street from the quarantine motel believes its occupants “should be locked down actually,” she told KIRO 7. “Now we know, now it’s confirmed, they can go anywhere they want.”

George Steele, a California man who told KIRO 7 he was released from the quarantine motel on Monday said he “tested negative and everything was good.”

Steele also said, he did not see anyone break quarantine while he stayed at the motel. “This is a deadly situation. Please isolate yourself. Keep your distance.”