COVID-19

Whatcom County to close COVID-19 quarantine site

Motel 6 in Bellingham was used to stop disease's spread
March 24, 2022 at 1:38 p.m.
Grant Chou receives a COVID-19 vaccine booster at a pop-up clinic in January. Whatcom County will continue to cover the cost of vaccinations for uninsured people after the federal government announced its funding would cease.
Grant Chou receives a COVID-19 vaccine booster at a pop-up clinic in January. Whatcom County will continue to cover the cost of vaccinations for uninsured people after the federal government announced its funding would cease. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

By RALPH SCHWARTZ
Staff Reporter

Whatcom County is closing its COVID-19 isolation and quarantine space at the Motel 6 off Samish Way in Bellingham.

The county and partner organizations have been running the motel building since April 2020 as a space for people otherwise unable to quarantine or isolate safely. The county’s lease expires on March 31, and the facility will shut down on that date, a county press release said.

The end of the lease coincides with significantly lower COVID-19 case counts in the county, compared to January’s omicron peak. 

Whatcom County reported 57 cases per 100,000 residents over the week of March 7-14, according to a state COVID-19 dashboard. This number, along with the county’s latest hospitalization figures, puts Whatcom in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's “low” category for COVID-19 levels.

“We anticipate a lower demand moving forward,” Cindy Hollinsworth, the Health Department’s communicable disease and epidemiology manager, said in the release. “While there will still be residents who will need a place to isolate while they’re sick, we expect we can meet their needs without operating a standalone facility.”

In January, the Motel 6 space was filled to its 58-person capacity, with people either isolating with COVID-19 symptoms or quarantining because they were exposed to the virus that causes the disease. The county opened Civic Stadium in Bellingham as an overflow site that month, and it remains available.

More than 700 people used the Motel 6 space since April 2020, the press release said. The facility averaged 10 guests from November 2020 to October 2021.

Meanwhile, the county will pay for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for uninsured individuals, after the federal government announced that its funding for these services is running out. Uninsured people can continue to get vaccinated at county pop-up clinics at no cost through at least June 30.

After case counts began to fall in Whatcom County and elsewhere in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee lifted the statewide mask mandate on March 12. 

Face masks are still required indoors at Bellingham International Airport, on airplanes and on Whatcom Transportation Authority buses. Both the airport and WTA are sticking with CDC guidelines, which recommend masks in transportation settings until at least April 18.

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