The Kent quarantine motel is pictured in Kent, Washington state. Michelle Wallard Martin/AFP
A project to set up “quarantine motels” in the US coronavirus epicenter of Washington state has infuriated local residents who fear they will be exposed to a high risk of infection.
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More than half of all US novel coronavirus deaths so far have struck in King County, which encompasses the city of Seattle. The region has suffered 43 fatalities.
With the entire northwestern state going into lockdown on Monday — bars, restaurants, gyms and museums are all closed — officials have moved to fill four properties bought to house those unable to self-quarantine.
These include the homeless, people with mental health issues or those living in multi-generational households worried about exposing elderly relatives.
The scheme is intended to relieve hospitals as resources grow increasingly stretched by the pandemic.
But Maddy Clemons, who works at coffee shop Bri's Beans opposite one motel in Kent, said she fears bringing the virus home to her two-year-old if customers pass it on to her.
"It worries me that (residents) could just leave the motel and walk up here to grab a coffee," she said, adding that she only learned about the quarantine site from a television crew who came to report on the plan.
"I'm looking for new employment, I'm so worried about it."
Soon after the motel opened, a homeless person who had not yet learned their coronavirus test result left the property, stole goods from a 7-11 convenience store and boarded a public bus.
Kent mayor Dana Ralph has called for heightened security including physical fencing, writing on Facebook: "My fears for this facility have come true. The things I predicted would happen now have happened."
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