The Washington State Patrol Fire Training Academy near North Bend has been taken off the list of quarantine sites for people returning from the Chinese province at the center of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.
The health department’s incident-management team decided other locations are better suited for the state’s response, department spokeswoman Jessica Baggett said in an email.
State-owned property behind the Washington State Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline is now the only site in the state that could quarantine healthy people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The site is designated for people who traveled from China’s Hubei province and aren’t able to quarantine elsewhere.
In Shoreline, the travelers would be housed for up to two weeks in one of four rented RVs, which are fenced off for privacy and security. Each person would receive his or her own RV, unless family members want to stay together; each RV has space for six people.
The decision to rule out the training academy near North Bend comes two weeks after the health department announced it had identified the facility as a potential site.
The facility near North Bend is in a remote area off Interstate 90, accessible only through a winding, narrow road. Used as a site to train firefighting recruits, it has a two-story dormitory that could have housed up to 20 travelers. The site was never used for quarantine.
Recruits currently training there had been staying in a North Bend motel but have returned to the dorms, State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said Wednesday.
Baggett said the decision to eliminate the North Bend site was based on logistical reasons — it’s about 45 miles from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is among 11 airports chosen to screen air passengers arriving from China for virus symptoms. The Shoreline site is about 25 miles from Sea-Tac, and health officials noted its proximity to the public-health lab.
There have been no flights from China at Sea-Tac, and the U.S. has suspended entry to the country for foreign nationals who have visited China within the past 14 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone who arrives and has been in Hubei will be told to quarantine at home, if possible, or taken to the Shoreline site if they’re not able to return home. Those at home will receive daily calls from public health workers. Anyone who displays symptoms will be taken to a medical facility.
There has been one positive case of coronavirus in Washington state. Of 26 people tested, 24 tested negative and one is pending test results. There are 779 people under public health supervision, according to the state health department. The people under supervision include anyone who had close contact with someone else who tested positive for coronavirus as well as travelers who returned from China in the past 14 days.