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Although capacity at Philadelphia’s quarantine site has fluctuated in recent months, the city is preparing to open a second one as the rate of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus rise rapidly, city officials said.
The first quarantine site, at the Center City Rodeway Inn, was the site of a small fire Thursday night, according to Philly Fire Department spokesperson Kathy Matheson. Some people were temporarily displaced, but there were no injuries. Matheson said the cause of the blaze is under investigation.
Details or location for the new quarantine hotel are not yet finalized, said Nichole Dantzler, the city’s isolation and quarantine manager in the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
“I want people to know that we have a safe place for them to isolate or quarantine,” Dantzler said. “Resources are out there.”
The Rodeway set-up will cost the city an estimated $8.2 million for the period from March to December, according to Health Department spokesperson James Garrow. Rooms at the 2-star hotel usually run about $125 per night, according to online listings. Garrow did not have an estimated cost for opening and maintaining the new site.
Keith Newman, a 63-year-old Philadelphian with heart problems, said he usually lives in a senior residence. After he contracted COVID, he couldn’t stay there to recuperate.
“I basically don’t have anybody else to take care of me,” Newman told Billy Penn from his room at the Rodeway Inn. “The city said, ‘You can come stay with us.'”
The quarantine site, located in the hotel on Walnut between 12th and 13th streets, has about 30 beds for individuals who need to isolate and can’t safely remain where they are, according to site manager Dantzler. Most come from a congregate setting, like a nursing home or a shelter, and some are taking refuge from multi-person private homes. Some people are coming from hospitals; others are found through contact tracing, she said.
Right now, beds are still available, but that changes every week, Dantzler said. Some people are directed there by hospitals, while others are found via the city’s contact tracing efforts.
Kia White, 33, who came to the site from a shelter with one of her three children because they tested COVID-positive, said staying at the Rodeway Inn has been a welcome respite. Her two other children, who did not test positive, were with family members.
“He’s enjoying it, just me and him,” White said about staying with her 7-year-old son at the hotel. “We have plenty of games.”
The food, which staff leaves at each residents’ door, was good, and a nurse checked on them each day, which was reassuring, she said.
Her main concern was that more permanent housing would come through for her family before she had to leave the Rodeway Inn. “I’m wishing and hoping,” White said. “I’m just holding on.”
The quarantine site first opened at the Center City Holiday Inn Express in April and then switched to the Rodeway Inn in late July, according to Garrow.
The Holiday Inn at Juniper and Sansom, meanwhile, was turned into what Philly calls a “COVID Prevention Space,” for individuals at risk of infection who have nowhere else to go. The Fairfield Inn at 13th and Spruce is also a prevention space.
Most people staying at these sites have experienced homelessness and/or have been living in city shelters and safe havens, according to the Office of Homeless Services.
At the quarantine site and prevention sites, staff runs residents’ clothing and other appropriate belongings through a “bed bug machine” before individuals are admitted to one of the hotels. The boxes heat up the contents for 30 minutes in order to kill any possible vermin.
The non-profit Resources for Human Development now runs the Holiday Inn prevention space, and another non-profit, Broad Street Ministry, runs the Fairfield Inn prevention space, according to city officials. The city chose these agencies to head the prevention spaces because they are “used to working with people experiencing homelessness and issues across the spectrum,” Dantzler said.
The quarantine site is taking donations of clothes, shoes, and entertainment items for those who don’t have enough belongings to isolate for 14 days.