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Sonoma County contract for Healdsburg hotel quarantine space worth up to $725,000

Sonoma County has agreed to pay up to $725,000 for the use of 60 rooms at a Healdsburg hotel to quarantine COVID-19 patients amid a surge of cases heading into the fall, according to the county’s contract with the hotel.

The deal, signed late last week with the Best Western Dry Creek Inn, secured replacement space for similar county quarantine units used to house at least 122 people this spring and early summer in student dorms at Sonoma State University. The hotel contract goes to the end of August, but allows for month-to-month extensions.

Hotel officials said detailed discussions with the county commenced in late June and early July. In an emailed statement, they expressed gratitude that the hotel, with 163 rooms in all, was able to serve the community again.

“From donating towels and sheets to Tubbs fire victims, a home away from home for flood evacuees or being a staging area for Cal Fire strike teams, the owners and team at the Dry Creek Inn have always recognized the importance of helping our community during challenging times,” said Eric Markson, the hotel’s regional director for business development.

By Tuesday afternoon, seven people had been set up in county rooms in the hotel’s south wing, which is separate from other parts of the inn, according to a Department of Health Services spokesman. All of those guests fell into one of three categories: people with mild COVID-19 symptoms who need to be isolated, people exposed to others known to have COVID-19 and needing to be quarantined; and people 65 and older with underlying conditions who are at greater risk from the disease.

Along with the 60 hotel rooms, the contract includes reservations covering three conference rooms: the Milan, Pisa and Tuscan, billed at $250 each per day for the first two weeks, and $75 per day after that.

The daily rate for county use of the rooms will range from $75 to $158, depending on whether the hotel rooms are occupied, according to the contract.

With a $30,000 security deposit, the county was able to take possession of the rooms this past Friday, and health officials began moving people in Monday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is set to cover up to 75% of the county’s costs in securing the premises.

The county will occupy the entire south wing of the hotel campus, known as the Villa Building and Krug Event Center, and will maintain one nurse, one assistant and a security patrol on site at all times.

The 30-page contract notes that guests using the quarantine space won’t have access to hotel pools, hot tubs, saunas or other amenities, and county officials have told city leaders that no visitors will be allowed.

The Healdsburg hotel is one of a range of alternative solutions the county has developed in the wake of its departure from Sonoma State University, an unwelcome exodus for county officials, who expected to have use of the campus through Sept. 5.

Along with quarantine and isolation space, Sonoma County used SSU facilities to house at least 140 vulnerable homeless residents, and set up dozens of cots in a campus recreation center gymnasium as surge capacity for local hospitals. Those cots were never used.

The county has secured a variety of sites for vulnerable homeless residents, including the Astro Hotel in downtown Santa Rosa, the Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds in Camp Meeker and state-provided trailers set up at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

A county effort to buy the Azura Hotel in downtown Santa Rosa to serve as temporary housing for at-risk homeless people is still a couple of months away, according to Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin, and county officials have promised to reach out to neighbors who have voiced concern about that plan.

Just as with the SSU site in Rohnert Park and the plans for Hotel Azura in Santa Rosa, city officials in Healdsburg said they received no advance notice from county counterparts about the plans for a new pandemic care facility in their jurisdiction.

But they’re slowly warming to the arrangement.

“We did not feel like we were well informed, but at the same time, I know that the county staff was working hard to find a location, and these are difficult times,” said Dave Kiff, interim city manager for Healdsburg. “There’s definitely a need for something like this. The Dry Creek Inn extension…seems like a reasonable place for (it).”

On Tuesday afternoon, county workers milled around the Villa Building, which was marked with new signs that advised guests: “Restricted Area. Monitored By Video Camera.”

Two women splashed in a swimming pool just a stone’s throw away from the building, separated from the quarantine space by a parking lot.

Less than 50 yards away, a white SUV pulled beneath the arched entrance of the Best Western Dry Creek Inn. A family unloaded bags and prepared to check into the Tuscan-inspired hotel. Situated between the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek valleys, the inn trades heavily on its location in the heart of northern Sonoma County Wine Country.

For now, at least, part of the hotel will serve a new purpose, with the county now its biggest direct customer.

“I think the alternate care site is a good opportunity not only for our community members, but other community members, especially in disadvantaged communities,” said Kiff, the Healdsburg official.

You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @tylersilvy.

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