The Community Action Center is working to secure more motel rooms in Pullman and Colfax where people infected with COVID-19 can quarantine if they cannot isolate themselves at home.
With the help of a $270,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce, the CAC has partnered with a group of local county and city leaders called the local Emergency Operations Center to reserve 12 rooms in Pullman and four in Colfax. These rooms have been available since April.
The CAC is trying to secure an additional 20-40 rooms in preparation for the fall when more than 10,000 Washington State University students could return to Pullman.
“This housing, while considered an option for quarantine and isolation housing for otherwise homeless individuals, may also be utilized by first responders and community members with no alternative to quarantine or isolate at home, by direction of the EOC,” CAC Executive Director Jeff Guyett wrote in a letter to the community.
Guyette wrote that the WSU administration has designated quarantine and isolation housing for its students living in campus housing. The Whitman County EOC is responsible for housing off-campus students and other community members.
The rooms will not be available to people who do not need to be quarantined for COVID-19 and are not considered a general emergency shelter, Guyette wrote.
Whitman County Public Health Director Troy Henderson said none of the rooms have been used by a COVID-19 patient yet.
The contract for the grant money ends Sept. 30, but the CAC plans to get an extension so that the funds can be used until the end of 2020.
Henderson said he is optimistic the CAC and EOC will be able to secure more rooms by mid-August.
The “COVID Emergency Housing Plan” is being coordinated by the CAC, the Whitman County Health Department, Pullman Police Department Chief Gary Jenkins and Pullman Fire Department Chief Mike Heston.
According to the plan, which was shared by Guyett, the motel rooms include a kitchenette and Whitman County will coordinate food delivery with local restaurants, grocers and the CAC food pantry.
There have been 38 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Whitman County this year, as of Monday. Of those patients, 31 have recovered, six are stable and isolated at home, and one has been hospitalized.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at email@example.com.