Potential coronavirus isolation, quarantine site set up in South Sound

At Maple Lane, a Department of Corrections property in south Thurston County, the Washington State Department of Health is working to potentially turn the site into an isolation and quarantine area.

As cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the globe, local agencies are taking steps to get ready in case the disease ramps up in Washington.

At Maple Lane, a Department of Corrections property in south Thurston County, the Washington State Department of Health is working to potentially turn the site into an isolation and quarantine area.

Workers have already set up RVs, a tent and extra fencing.

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“We can’t predict the future, but we do know we want to plan,” said Stephanie Dunkel, communicable disease control assistant division director for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Coronavirus has been detected in 37 locations, including the United States. Last month, a person tested positive in Washington.

"One case I know is horrible. I wish it was zero, but compared to what we’re hearing around the world, maybe it’s a good thing, and, if it’s isolated, we can contain it,” said Gary Schneider, a Rochester resident.

Currently, the risk is low but readiness is high.

If Maple Lane becomes an isolation and quarantine site, it would be the home to two pods of RVs, similar to the setup at the Shoreline location.

If used for isolation, one RV pod would house individuals who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19, have mild symptoms and are unable to remain isolated at home.

If used for quarantine, one RV pod would house healthy people who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19, have no symptoms and can’t safely quarantine at home.

"I kind of go back and forth on it. My concern is there’s a couple schools really close,” Schneider said. “But, at the same time, we have to do something and I feel like it’s wrong to keep a lot of people, Americans especially, on these ships that are just incubators for the virus.”

The Washington State Department of Health said people using the service would be safely away from other people and would pose no risk to employees at the Maple Lane facility or anyone nearby, including neighbors or businesses.

In Pierce County, 45 health department staff members spent the past five weeks learning, planning and preparing for the worst.

“We’ve learned some lessons from H1N1 and other situations that tell us this is the time to do it, the time to prepare,” Dunkel said.

Workers set up an Emergency Operations Center to stay connected with schools, businesses and the public in case the highly contagious virus emerges in the area.

“Plan for the worst, but hope for the best, right?” Dunkel said.

Over the past five weeks, the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department has spent close to $100,000 on coronavirus prevention, planning and communications. The work could continue for months, depending on when and if any cases appear in the South Sound.