COVID Camps in America? Washington State is Hiring Staff for an ‘Isolation and Quarantine Facility’

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The Kent quarantine motel is pictured on March 9, 2020 .Lewis County recently opened hiring for three staffers for a “Isolation and Quarantine Facility,” stoking fears that COVID-19 internment camps may be coming to America.
The Kent quarantine motel is pictured on March 9, 2020. Lewis County recently opened hiring for three staffers for a “Isolation and Quarantine Facility,” stoking fears that COVID-19 internment camps may be coming to America. (Image: MICHELLE W. MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Are government operated Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) camps being established in the United States? The answer is yes, according to a September job posting by the Washington State government. However, the state has been quietly operating quarantine hotels and modular trailer parks since early 2020.

The Department of Health for Lewis County in Washington State is hiring three people for the position of Isolation & Quarantine Team Consultant. The role is a 12 month contract, pays between $3,200 and $4,286 per month, and is described as having a number of roles, including:

  • Providing “transportation to and from the facility in vans that have been altered to separate air flow to protect the driver”;
  • Accompanying nurses on their rounds and taking notes for nurses; 
  • Providing “laundry services, delivering hygiene products, delivering ready-made foods or microwaveable foods”; and
  • Duties such as “answer phones, check inventory and keep track of supplies needed to safely operate the facility.”

The position is located at “our State Isolation and Quarantine Facility” in Centralia, a small town with a population of slightly more than 17,000, located approximately 84 miles South of Seattle and 91 miles North of Portland 

The job posting says the site is operated “from within a motel in Lewis County.”

While the advertisement is listed on the website governmentjobs.com, the same ad can be found directly through the careers.wa.gov website.

A June 2 article by local newspaper The Chronicle reported Lewis County officials had fought with the state to move the facility, which it said was located at a local motel that the owner had leased to Washington State, out of their county.

“News of the facility growing from four to 23 patients did nothing to soothe the situation,” read the article, noting Lewis County was frustrated with the Washington Department of Health (DOH) over a lack of communication. The article notes the motel only has 40 units.

The Chronicle also said, “The facility was previously housed in a Thurston County summer camp, where DOH officials say they didn’t face this level of local pushback.”

Nathan Weed, a spokesperson for the DOH, was paraphrased as telling the country’s council that “the facility hosts the small percentage of people who exceed local health jurisdictions’ capabilities, or who arrive in Washington and are not under any one county’s jurisdiction.”

Weed also spoke of “the voluntary nature of the facility,” while trying to abate fears of community transmission from the facility.

A May 19 article by the same outlet revealed the facility’s presence had never been welcomed by local residents, which reported that local Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA) wrote to Governor Inslee, “I have met with a number of these local residents and business owners who were shocked to first learn in the local newspaper about the state’s decision to open this facility on a Wednesday, and then find out that it was up and running 48 hours later.”

A similar article by Oregon’s Public Broadcaster on May 22 quoted Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope as saying, “The ink had already dried on the contract, they’d already moved in and started converting the hotel. No one knew about it.” 

“They just came in and commandeered the hotel. Paid a sum of money that we don’t know and didn’t go through any zoning, planning or permitting.”

The owner of the hotel, Sher Singh, told OPB the contract books all 40 rooms in his hotel and pays for his three staff members, who aren’t required to work unless an “an on-call issue arises.”

Singh declined to state the size of the contract he was awarded. 

Meanwhile, in Washington’s King County, located approximately 108 miles North of Lewis County, the local government’s website has extensive video documentation of its isolation and quarantine facilities, which it describes as “provid[ing] supervised care to symptomatic or COVID-positive adults who cannot safely quarantine or recover in their own home, or do not have a home.”

One video posted on the KingCountyTV YouTube channel from April of 2020 shows both a commandeered hotel and a tent-like facility erected for quarantine purposes, while a map posted in the video shows 9 different locations in the county hosting facilities.

In the video, in a section captioned “This is how placement works…” Leo Flor, Director of Department of Community and Human Services states, “The hospital gives us a call, and the hospital says, ‘We’ve got somebody that doesn’t need emergent care, but who we believe should be isolated or quarantined,’ and then we make a decision about what type of facility is going to be most appropriate for a person and where we identify that we have a space available, transport them there, and then sustain them once they get there.”

A second video hosted on the channel from March of 2020 showcases the deployment of “modular units,” which are branded trailer units in a camp setup for the purposes of quarantine.

Footage from inside the units shows two elevated single mattresses with plastic covers. A wooden cabinet is placed in between the mattresses, with a sink and the bathroom only a few feet away.

The phenomenon has also emerged in Canada. In November of 2020, independent media outlet Rebel News reported on a similar set of trailer-based quarantine camps being deployed near Portage la Prairie in Manitoba, located approximately 56 miles west of the Winnipeg metropolis. 

Footage taken on the ground by Rebel News showed the camps surrounded by barbed wire fencing.

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.