Before adding new comments to this article, please read our update on the Days Inn quarantine site.
A couple of readers kept spotting ambulances outside the entrance to the Days Inn at 4400 Connecticut Avenue. They emailed us to ask what was going on.
One of the places we checked was with the Days Inn’s management company. Last Thursday, we got this response from Jamie L. Howser, the vice president of operations at Coakley & Williams Hotel Management:
“The District is operating remote quarantine and isolation sites for individuals impacted by COVID-19 who cannot self-quarantine in a private residential space. That includes those who have tested positive or are symptomatic and pending test results. We are asking the community to respect the privacy of this location and the staff working there as they support individuals awaiting test results or recovering from illness.”
In a follow-up email, we asked about staff needs. Did they have masks? What about meals? Could we put the word out for help? This was the response:
“It’s very heartfelt that the community is willing to support and assist during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. As the District continues responding to and working to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Mayor Bowser is encouraging volunteers to join the DC Medical Reserve Corps (DC MRC). The DC MRC is housed in the DC Department of Health (DC Health) and supports public health and medical emergency preparedness, response, and recovery by recruiting, training, and deploying medical and non-medical volunteers to assist with planned events and emergencies. Volunteers can complete the online registration here.”
We were not yet ready to publish what we knew. We wanted to know whether the staff had been trained and what safety protocols were being followed. We started putting out feelers.
Then, on Sunday: NBC4 reported that the hotel is one of five quarantine sites in the District. Its crew found trash, which included personal protective gear and bed linens, overflowing from dumpsters out back. The report included footage of a worker – wearing a mask and gown – returning to the hotel after grabbing a bite to eat nearby.
Forest Hills Connection has requested follow-up information from the DC Department of Health and the Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services. Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh (who learned of the quarantine site when the NBC4 reporter asked her about it) is seeking answers from those agencies, too.
In an email Monday to constituents, she wrote:
Moving forward, the site must be strictly managed to not increase the risks we face and to ensure that this location is safe, sanitary, and does not pose a threat to public health. I’m following up with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Health (DC Health) for answers to additional safety-related questions. These include additional safety protocols for patients and the public, whether patients continue to receive DHS services and health counseling, who is operating the site, the types of PPE provided to personnel and patients, etc.
The manner in which the self-quarantine site became public knowledge has undoubtedly eroded public trust. And perhaps proper communication at the outset could have prevented much of the fear and alarm felt by many.
At the same time, Cheh writes: “Four residents experiencing homelessness in the District have died from coronavirus so far, so this intervention is desperately needed.”
And her final thought: “We are long into the period of community spread in the District, so all public spaces and businesses that remain open are likely to already be exposed to coronavirus. It is by staying home when possible, proper social distancing, mask and glove wearing, and hand washing that we are able to help keep ourselves, our families, and others safe.”