Judge denies Kent's motion to stop coronavirus 'quarantine' motel

KENT, Wash. -- A judge has denied Kent's motion to stop King County from using a motel in the city as a quarantine facility for coronavirus patients.

The city took legal action after the county announced plans this week to pay $4 million to buy the Econo Lodge on Central Avenue North. A release from King County Executive Dow Constantine's office says the superior court judge denied Kent's request for a temporary restraining order against the county.

The judge's ruling allows the county to house up to 15 people at the facility.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said she is disappointed in the ruling but grateful the court recognizes the city's serious concerns. She released a statement that reads, in part:

"We will continue our fight in court next week and are hopeful for a positive outcome. We are still confident a solution can be reached if the County applies for the proper permits and agrees to reasonable conditions for public health and safety."

In a complaint filed Friday, the city alleged that King County "failed to adequately address the risks to the adjacent community, including what measures would be taken to ensure that the residents and guests at the facility do not interact with the public."

Read the complaint

County leaders have said people can come to the motel at their own will and follow medical instructions.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said earlier this week that county officials didn't notify her about their intent with the motel, and that while the city has spent money and time to improve its appearance, visitors and residents will now be greeted by a quarantine facility as they enter town.

She called it an “equity issue” that patients from wealthier, less-diverse parts of the county would be brought to Kent.

The city plans to continue its legal battle to make sure the county gets the proper permits to operate the motel as a quarantine facility.

Constantine's office admitted in a statement that it had to take drastic measures to slow the spread of coronavirus and that the motel could help the fight.

The statement reads, in part:

To quickly set up housing for those recovering from sickness or directed by Public Health – Seattle & King County to remain in isolation, King County is prioritizing locations that meet Public Health’s requirements. The motel in Kent was the only site on the market that included separate HVAC in each unit, and separate doors to the outside. Kent is one of four sites across the region pressed into service in the fight against COVID-19. The others include: Interbay, North Seattle, and White Center.

The Associated Press contributed to this report