As the delta variant of COVID-19 runs rampant through Washington, the state Department of Health (DOH) is reporting that its isolation and quarantine facility at Lakeview Inn in Centralia still has capacity and room to serve those in Washington state who don’t fall under any city or county jurisdiction.
Cory Portner, a public information officer with DOH, told The Chronicle last week that a total of 168 individuals have utilized the voluntary facility, located at Lakeshore Drive, since it opened May 3.
Of that number, a total of 19 people used the facility to “quarantine,” meaning they’ve been exposed and were awaiting a negative or positive test, and 149 patients used the facility for “isolation,” or to get over their infection.
DOH couldn’t immediately release any demographic information, such as where the visitors were originally from or what percentage were from the Department of Corrections work release program. The Chronicle has requested more information through a public records request.
Since opening, the isolation and quarantine program at Lakeview Inn has worked to serve any out-of-state person who comes into close contact with or is infected by another person with COVID-19. That includes shipping and vessel crews, travelers and work release inmates.
“These folks come from all over, but the commonality is that they don’t have a local jurisdiction here in Washington state. They don’t have a residence, they don’t have a place to call home here,” Portner said.
DOH is still working to find a permanent location to move the site to in the coming months, Portner said. The department’s lease of the whole motel is up at in April 2022.
The facility faced criticism from Centralia and Lewis County officials after the department did not work with local officials in placing the facility, a fact that generated an apology from the department earlier this year.
The state is also continuing to work with Lewis County, the City of Centralia and state Department of Revenue to come to a “finalized agreement” on how the state could pay back thousands of dollars worth of lodging tax dollars that were lost due to the state’s occupation.
On Wednesday of last week, Portner said there were 13 individuals isolated and one in quarantine at the 40-bed motel.
At the moment, DOH is not sure how or if the delta variant has impacted the number of people it sees at the Lakeview site, Portner said, though local hospitals have reported overwhelming numbers of hospital admissions due to COVID-19.
Prevalence of COVID-19 activity statewide has roughly quadrupled between July 8 and Aug. 6, though.
“We know folks who are not vaccinated are being hit the hardest,” Portner said, adding: “The delta variant is fairly nasty and proving a challenge.”
During a Wednesday morning news conference, Washington state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said the increase in hospitalizations and cases across the state was concerning and that this latest wave has overwhelmingly preyed on the unvaccinated. He said the state’s health system is “stressed, stretched and strained.”
“In just a couple of months, the delta variant has ravaged our state. It has preyed particularly on those who are unvaccinated. Those unvaccinated persons, unfortunately, have largely driven our cases and hospitalizations. We know delta is markedly more transmissible, and that has led to what we are seeing across our communities, across Washington,” Shah said. “I think the key message is that this pandemic rages on.”
Shah said that about 95% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations from Feb. 1 to Aug. 3 were in people who were not yet fully vaccinated. The risk of hospitalization for unvaccinated individuals also remains several folds higher for people of all age groups.
There are currently about 1.9 million people still unvaccinated in Washington state. About 72.4% of the state’s population 12 years or older have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine. In Lewis County, that number is at 50.7%.