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Seattle Officials Move To Take Over Motel, Erect Modular Units For Quarantine Sites

With a rising death toll and infection rate from the coronavirus, Seattle's leaders are scrambling to come up with plans to quarantine potential victims and react to rapidly increasing infection rates.

During a 45-minute King County press conference, the death toll went from two to five, then to six, as a doctor at EvergreenHealth Medical Center confirmed that another person at the Kirkland hospital succumbed to the virus. Thus far all of the deaths have occurred at that Kirkland, Washington, hospital. King and Snohomish counties reported 18 people had tested positive as of mid-evening Monday.

Seattle Officials Move To Take Over Motel, Erect Modular Units For Quarantine Sites
King County officials and health officials hold a press conference about the novel coronavirus on March 2, 2020.

King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an emergency declaration that enables the county to take extra steps to fight the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19. The county is finalizing plans to purchase a motel and set up modular housing units on publicly owned parking lots and on Harbor Island. These housing units will be used for those who are unable to quarantine themselves at home.

“We have moved to a new stage in the fight to contain and mitigate this outbreak,” Constantine said.

Washington Department of Health Director John Wiesman told state lawmakers Monday that $100M will be needed to fight this outbreak.

Gov. Jay Inslee has already declared a state of emergency.

There are 17 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials here in Seattle helping local authorities contain the outbreak.

At a different press conference later in the afternoon, Inslee said that cancellations of large events could occur and he asked people to stay home if they are sick. He asked those with compromised immune systems to take extra precautions.

“It’s a bit of [a] patriotic act right now, not going to work,” he said.

As of Monday afternoon, no citywide convention cancellations have been announced. The Celebrity Millennium cruise ship will make five sailings into Seattle in April and May as a result of changes made to the schedule to avoid Asian ports.

Seattle Officials Move To Take Over Motel, Erect Modular Units For Quarantine Sites
The 48-floor F5 Tower, the reflective building center left, was closed today for disinfecting after an employee came in contact with a coronavirus patient.

The region is currently operating under a containment plan, but that will soon change as more cases make it clear the pathogen is being spread through the community, Seattle and King County Public Health Officer Jeff Duchin said.

“We understand people need to be out in the community,” Duchin said. “We are not recommending widespread cancellations of gatherings or closures of school right now. If you are a susceptible person with underlying health conditions, or are older, you might want to take steps to avoid this virus.”

The list of school closures is growing. At last count, 12 schools were closed for cleaning, but the list is quickly growing.

The business community is also feeling its effects. The iconic 48-floor F5 Tower, formerly known as the Mark, closed today because an employee had contact with a COVID-19 patient, according to several media reports. 

The Seattle tourism market is sure to feel the commercial impacts, Visit Seattle said. China is Seattle’s second-largest international visitor market, representing 25% of all overseas visitation. Visit Seattle and its research partner, Tourism Economics, expects a 28% decrease in travelers from China in 2020. The organization has suspended paid marketing efforts in China, but is still running supportive messaging via WeChat and Weibo platforms.