News & Politics

Washington State Now Hiring 'Strike Team' for Quarantine Facility With 24/7 Security

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

The State of Washington Health Department is advertising open positions for members of a new unit called the Isolation and Quarantine Strike Team. The new positions pay $3,294-4,286 per month:

These I & Q Strike Team Member Program Specialist 2s (PS2) are responsible for participating in program planning and evaluation of health service delivery products and identifying needs for personnel, supplies, and activities to support community and state response activities. These positions will staff the State Isolation and Quarantine Facility and provide for the needs of travelers that stay at the facility. I & Q Strike Team members are in responsible charge of the I & Q Facility during their shift and are tasked with responding to emergencies, training contractors and new staff, and providing guest support as needed. When we are successful, these efforts will directly support the mission of the DOH, which is to protect and improve the health of people in Washington.

No word if “travelers” and “guests” maintain the ability to come and go as they please.

The state isolation and quarantine facility, located in Centralia, Washington, will initially hire three new employees to staff its Strike Team. The duties sound benign enough:

Duties Include

  • Maintaining the readiness of the isolation and quarantine strike team, facilities, and equipment.
  • Providing direct services to the public at the I & Q facility to include: check-in, providing technical assistance, purchasing groceries and supplies for the site and guests, distributing food and resources, assisting with inventory of resources, and ensuring all guests receive excellent customer service.
  • Assisting nurses on performing rounds,
  • Maintaining facility cleanliness and processing guest laundry.
  • Providing guest transport to and from the I & Q facility.
  • Prepping the I & Q facility to receive guests, ensuring rooms are stocked and have been properly cleaned.
  • Providing outreach, education, and technical assistance to internal and external stakeholders.

One question, though: Why is a Strike Team needed? The image of a Strike Team conjures Vic Mackey and The Shield, not a benevolent public health worker. Is it as Orwellian and fascistic as it sounds, or are we just being paranoid?

The isolation and quarantine facility has generated controversy since Governor Jay Inslee announced its creation. The Daily Chronicle of Centralia reported in June:

Local officials were caught off guard last month when news surfaced that the state would be relocating its sole isolation and quarantine facility to a small inn located just off Interstate 5 in Centralia. The state has admitted to not communicating stakeholders of the last-minute move and officials from the department have apologized.

In his response to Luond, Shah outlined DOH’s decision-making process to relocate its site to the 40-bed Lakeview Inn and the safety measures and risk mitigation strategies it has implemented. He voiced his commitment to explore options to help the city recover lost lodging taxes that came as a result of the department’s occupation of the motel.

They offered further detail:

The state’s isolation and quarantine facility is a completely voluntary program that serves travelers, shipping vessel crews, military personnel, Department of Corrections work-release inmates and anyone else who contracts COVID-19 while traveling through or doing business in Washington state.

The site serves infected people in the state who don’t fall under jurisdiction of any specific county. It allows a location for people who were in close contact with someone infected to go to quarantine and a place for infected people to isolate and get over their illness.

In an update to the Centralia City Council, Clifford said there have been a total of 32 people who have been sent to the facility since it opened a month ago. Of those, two individuals have been from the state’s work-release program.

A total of 18 have requested isolation and 13 are quarantined. Two people have had to be transferred to a local hospital with worsening conditions.

The Chronicle reported the previous week that county and city officials grilled the Department of Health’s Nathan Weed, the acting assistant secretary for preparedness and response. One of the major concerns was whether the state has the authority to open a facility in an existing public health jurisdiction:

According to Weed, 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. Most of the time, Weed said, those individuals exposed to COVID-19 can find their own place to quarantine. Washington’s state of emergency, he said, allows the state health department to step in.

He also tried to quell fears that the site could spread the disease locally, citing 24/7 security, the voluntary nature of the facility, and the success the state has had in the more than a year of operating such facilities. Policies in place mean community transmission is “not even possible,” he said.

So the state took over a private hotel to create an isolation and quarantine facility, which has caused problems if its own. But, again, why a strike team? If it’s voluntary, why do they need 24/7 security?

This doesn’t add up.