Woodburn hotel used for Covid isolation could continue until June

A sign at Salud Medical Center in Woodburn on Wednesday, April 29. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A hotel in Woodburn that Marion County has used to provide a place for people exposed to Covid who have nowhere to isolate could remain open a little longer.

During its Wednesday morning meeting, the Marion County Board of Commissioners will consider an update to the contract between the county and the operator of the Super 8 hotel in Woodburn.

In June of last year, the county approved an agreement with the operator of the 81-room hotel, located at 821 Evergreen Rd. The agreement gave the county exclusive use of the hotel to offer rooms to people with relatively minor Covid cases whose living situations prevented them from being able to isolate. Those people could include farmworkers, people living in multigenerational housing and recently released prisoners. Securing the hotel was a requirement of the state’s plan to begin lifting Covid restrictions last year.

The county is authorized to spend up to $2.2 million on the contract, and the update will increase that amount by $684,000.

Marion County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley said in an email that the county was unsure how long it would need to use the hotel when the contract was approved in June. She said the updated contract will extend the agreement through June 30. But the county will still face the same uncertainty even after extending it, she said.  

“We are hopeful that the additional three months will carry us through until more people are eligible and able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.

Since the county booked the hotel last summer, it’s also been used for people grappling with other natural catastrophes. In September, the contract was amended to allow the hotel to be used as a shelter for evacuees from the state’s historic wildfires.

According to numbers provided by Kelley, 458 people have used the hotel since July 2020. Of those, 170 were Covid patients who needed a place to isolate themselves. Another 270 were wildfire evacuees. More recently, another 18 people used it during the ice storms.

As of March 5, the county has expended nearly $1.8 million on the hotel. Kelley said money for the contract is paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Not everyone in Woodburn has been happy with the county using the hotel. As the county was finalizing the contract last summer, Eric Morris, then a member of Woodburn City Council, called the move “irresponsible,” citing the hotel’s proximity to apartments and a senior care facility.

In July, the city of Woodburn sued Marion County seeking to block its use of the hotel. In October, the case was dismissed.

Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson declined to comment on the county extending the contract.

 Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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