The 155-room Executive Hotel Pacific in downtown Seattle, which the city rented out for three months starting in March at a cost of about $3 million, was supposed to provide a place for first responders to quarantine or isolate during the COVID pandemic. In the first month of the lease period, however, only 17 people have stayed in the hotel—eight firefighters, three members of law enforcement, and six health care workers (a category of worker the city added to the list of those who could stay in the hotel last week.) Currently, nine people are staying in the eight-story hotel—three firefighters and six health care workers.
The length of the workers’ stays have ranged from 1 to 30 days. Ten of the 17 stayed less than a week, and the average stay so far has been 9 days.
The city is on the hook for all 155 rooms regardless of whether they are occupied or vacant. However, they will not have to pay for room service to the rooms that sit empty. If every room was empty, the city would save about $634,000 on the initial $3.4 price tag. (The actual cost would be higher because the city calculated room costs with taxes but left taxes off the food estimate; adding about 10% tax would raise that cost to about $700,000).
Currently, nine people are staying in the eight-story hotel—three firefighters and six health care workers.
Advocates for people experiencing homelessness have pushed the city to rent hotel rooms so that homeless people can follow state and federal guidelines for sheltering in place, rather than sleeping head to toe in mass shelters where COVID-19 is likely to spread. San Francisco, Dallas, and other cities have experienced mass outbreaks of the coronavirus in large congregate shelters like the ones in Seattle.
King County opened two motels to 400 shelter residents earlier this month, but that accounts for only a tiny fraction of the more than 12,000 people experiencing homelessness in the county. The city of Seattle has opted to open up larger mass shelters, at great expense, while resisting calls to give homeless people their own space to safely quarantine.