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Sonoma County secures new coronavirus quarantine site at Best Western in Healdsburg

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Sonoma County next week will open a new quarantine site for those in need of coronavirus isolation and lower-level care at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg, where 60 rooms will be used to bolster the county’s fight to curb the pandemic’s spread.

Officials finalized a month-to-month contract Friday for the block of rooms, which are intended for use by individuals who know they are COVID-positive, and have only mild-to-moderate symptoms, or who are still awaiting test results and live in situations that don’t permit them to isolate properly from other family members or housemates.

The new arrangement replaces the similar arrangements at student housing at Sonoma State University under a multimillion dollar deal that the college ended last month.

It also included additional dorm rooms for vulnerable homeless individuals, as well as gymnasium space that went unused for hospital surge capacity.

The new Healdsburg lodging, located just off Highway 101 on Dry Creek Road, resolves a challenging situation for the county, which had hoped to hang on longer to the campus housing it had secured at SSU.

The Best Western Dry Creek Inn’s 163 rooms, touted on its website as a touch of Tuscany in the “heart of Sonoma Wine Country,” start at $129.49.

Barbie Robinson, the county’s health services director, confirmed the new deal in an interview from her car after the close of business Friday. She did not have the dollar amount of the contract immediately available.

She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is to reimburse the county for 75% of the cost of the site, requires such contracts be extended 30 days at a time, preventing the county from signing a long-term agreement, though that’s the intent.

The unwelcome move from SSU for the county arrived in the midst of a sharp surge in local COVID-19 cases, which this week topped 2,000, after doubling in just three weeks.

Nineteen people have died, 13 of them residents of skilled nursing or long-term care facilities.

Robinson pushed back on reports that the county had not been prepared for the end of the deal with SSU, contending that though it didn’t have a replacement for quarantine space lined up until now, officials had been searching all the while.

“We’ve been continuously, constantly working to identify solutions all along,” she said.

The same county contractors who provided food, medical services, security and the like will also serve at the Best Western, officials said.

But they highlighted the fact that the hotel would offer a more secure, welcoming outdoor space for patients that would feel more relaxing.

The county, meanwhile, has found several other sites for medically vulnerable homeless people at high risk of severe complications from COVID-19, most of them over age 65, suffering from underlying conditions, or both.

Forty-four are now staying at the Astro Hotel in Santa Rosa, while another 41 are in cabins at the nonprofit Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds in Camp Meeker, though there is capacity for as many as 99, Health Services spokesman Rohish Lal said.

Eighteen people also are staying in 10 government trailers at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, with another 24 units for 28 more people on the way.

Residents of each site have access to medical and behavioral health services, housing navigation, job-skills training and other services, and are being tested regularly for coronavirus, as well.

“I’m very grateful to the nonprofits and local businesses who stepped up to be part of the solution,” Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The county also is poised to purchase the 42-room Hotel Azura in downtown Santa Rosa for permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals as early as this fall. The Board of Supervisors recently advanced that move and the county is now in the due diligence stage of the process.

The county would use some of $600 million in Homekey funds recently allocated by the state and Gov. Gavin Newsom to house the homeless.

The county continues to seek an appropriate site for COVID-positive patients removed from skilled nursing facilities to try to avoid exposing others, officials said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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