Photo by Jessica Keller: Construction workers are currently installing utilities and ramps and other features at the site of a future COVID-19 shelter on Elliott Avenue in Interbay. The facility, which is supposed to be turned over to the county April 27,  will likely house people recovering from COVID-19.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Construction workers are currently installing utilities and ramps and other features at the site of a future COVID-19 shelter on Elliott Avenue in Interbay. The facility, which is supposed to be turned over to the county April 27, will likely house people recovering from COVID-19.

Construction work is currently taking place at a piece of property in Interbay that will be used for COVID-19 shelter.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, King County announced various locations throughout the county would be designated shelters for people in quarantine, isolation or in recovery. When complete, the Interbay site, 531 Elliott Ave. W., will have 14 buildings with modular housing that can serve up to 72 people.

At a weekly phone meeting for Seattle stakeholders and King County representatives April 1, Calli Knight, deputy director of external relations for the Office of King County Executive Dow Constantine, said the trailers have been all been built and shipped from to Seattle. The site will be turned over for operations April 27.

Currently, construction workers are hooking up the trailers to utilities and creating ramps to the buildings. She said, unlike at other locations, the site has not been dedicated for a certain use yet. Instead, city staff are conducting daily assessments about what the county's needs are as the virus spreads.

“At this point, we're thinking it's going to be an assessment and recovery center,” Knight said.

According to King County fact sheets, assessment and recovery centers differ from isolation and quarantine sites because they are for people recovering from COVID-19 who do not need to be hospitalized but need a safe place to recover. According to a King County COVID-19 fact sheet, assessment/recovery centers will be supervised by clinical staff, including one doctor, and non-medical professionals. Basic health care will be provided, but people requiring acute medical care will be taken to hospitals. By having assessment and recovery centers, hospitals will have a place to send “non-serious COVID cases” and free up hospital beds for acute cases.

People who may occupy the site include first responders and health care workers, travelers, people who can't safely recover at home or the homeless.

A security guard will ensure that people are safely transported in and out of the facility, and that food and other supplies are delivered safely. The security guard does not have the authority to keep people there if they want to leave, however.

Ellen Monrad, Queen Anne Community Council executive chairman, said she thinks the Elliott Avenue location is perfect for an assessment/recovery center. The facility will be situated on county property that is next to an operational wastewater outlet facility. Not many employees work nearby, Monrad said, and the property backs up onto the railroad tracks. It is across the street from a parking lot and a vacant restaurant.

“It's as isolated a spot you can find in the city of Seattle,” Monrad said.

While the county has not decided what the other COVID-19 shelter locations will be used for after the pandemic, the Elliott Avenue site was already intended to serve as housing for the homeless. Monrad said it was scheduled to open last May, but the project encountered problems getting the necessary building permits from the city.

By designating the site for COVID-19 recovery and bringing in trailers built out of town, many of the previous problems have been eliminated, Monrad said.

“So this is just fast-tracking the existing plans,” Monrad said.

King County has currently designated 9 locations as COVID-19 shelter sites. Isolation and quarantine facilities are already open in Kent and Issaquah and Harborview Hall and Aurora in Seattle, with another planned to open in White Center. In addition to the Elliott Avenue site, assessment/recovery centers are planned for three other locations: in SoDo, Eastgate in Bellevue and Shoreline. The King County Council approved $15.8 million to pay for the Elliott Bay, White Center, Aurora and Kent facilities. Appropriations for the other locations will be included in subsequent budget appropriation requests.

In addition to the Elliott Avenue shelter, Monrad is also following progress about the city's plans to turn Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center into a temporary homeless shelter. According to a fact sheet from King County, the proposed move will “de-intensify” crowded homeless shelters and create additional space for social distancing by moving people staying at homeless shelters to other locations.

Fisher Pavilion is a stand-alone building at the Seattle Center, and the 12,500-square-foot space is typically rented out for wedding receptions, galas and corporate events.

Monrad said she wants to know if the city is going to provide food at the shelter because she volunteers for the Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart, which is already serving more people in need, and a large number of additional people from a nearby temporary homeless shelter will strain its resources further.

“The Fisher Pavilion isn't a long-term solution to the homeless problem,” Monrad said. “So right now, it's shut down, so that's why it's available.”

Monrad said she has not received any confirmation from the city when it will be opened for that purpose, and county officials in the April 1 stakeholders meeting had no additional information.