TAYLOR-OLSON | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
As students return this fall, a local nonprofit is working to address the need for quarantine facilities that use funding from the state.
Jeff Guyett, Community Action Center executive director, said the state’s Department of Commerce awarded the CAC with a $270,000 grant in March.
The purpose of the grant is to provide quarantine housing for homeless individuals and those who cannot quarantine at home, according to the Whitman County COVID-19 Emergency Housing Plan.
Guyett provided the plan’s finalized draft to The Daily Evergreen on Thursday. The plan is awaiting approval from Troy Henderson, county public health director and emergency operations center commander. Guyett said the plan will be submitted to the state’s Department of Commerce.
The plan is a partnership between different groups, including the CAC and the county’s health department. These partners form the COVID Housing Group.
Guyett said the CAC has reserved 12 motel rooms in Pullman and four in Colfax. The rooms are available for patients who have tested positive but cannot quarantine at their residence, or those who live with an at-risk person.
In other cases, some people may not be able to quarantine at their home due to certain living conditions, such as having one communal bathroom. He said these individuals can stay in those motel rooms as well.
Each room contains a kitchenette, according to the plan. COVID Housing will work with local restaurants and grocers for food delivery. The group will also collaborate with the CAC’s food pantry.
“If somebody’s in there with a need that goes beyond what the ability the person has to pay for those, then part of the funding is to provide those meals,” Guyett said.
Laundry services and cleaning requirements will be addressed by coordinating with the motels or through other means, according to the plan.
The CAC can also assist those in the motel rooms to meet any travel needs, Guyett said, and help them find permanent housing or shelter.
The CAC pre-pays for those rooms on a monthly basis, he said. Although the rooms have been available since April, none of them have been used yet.
“We’re expecting that they’d be needed,” he said, “especially as WSU students begin to return to the area.”
After testing positive for COVID-19, a person will receive a call from the county’s public health office, Henderson said. Individuals will be asked if they have any concerns about quarantining at their residence. The EOC will review each person’s case to determine whether or not they should quarantine in the motel rooms.
“It would not be a typical, traditional motel stay,” he said.
The county is expecting an increase of COVID-19 cases this fall, Henderson said. The county is also anticipating a heightened demand for medical services and contact tracing.
“We’ve been planning and preparing to ramp up our responses to COVID-19 … upon the return of the student body,” he said.
WSU has designated quarantine and isolation units for on-campus students, Guyett said. Off-campus students who contract COVID-19 can stay in those motel rooms.
Guyett said Henderson has requested more rooms to meet the potential need for returning students. The plan estimates a total of 29 available rooms from mid-August to mid-September.
This is a concern for the CAC, Guyett said, because the grant’s contract will terminate Sept. 30. The state’s Department of Commerce denied the CAC’s request for a grant extension.
“With the request from working with our partners … we’re not able to provide as many rooms as were requested,” Guyett said. “But we’re doing the best we can to try to meet all those needs.”