COVID-19 spike reported at Renton homeless hotel

Since mid-December, 30 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at a hotel housing more than 200 homeless people in Renton, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County.

It’s the most seen since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic at any of the hotels the county is using to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 among homeless people, The Seattle Times reported. The Red Lion Hotel in Renton was opened by the county to keep people out of crowded bunk-bed or mats-on-the-ground shelters.

Earlier this month, Renton City Council passed a mandate that the hotel shelter be vacated beginning in June 2021.

After few cases over the summer and a fall with rare isolated spikes, 226 cases — including those of employees — have been connected to King County shelters and service sites or meal programs in December.

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While the largest outbreaks earlier this year were concentrated in shelters where people share living space — a scenario the Red Lion and other hotel shelters were created to avoid — this month’s biggest outbreaks have been in private housing for formerly homeless people.

Catholic Community Services’ Noel House in Seattle, where 20 chronically homeless women live in separate rooms, recorded 17 cases earlier in December, and Plymouth Housing’s Pacific Apartments in Seattle, which hosts over 100 formerly homeless people, had 20 cases.

The rise in cases at the Renton hotel is likely not so much an outbreak coming from one person, as COVID-19 has spread widely at this point among the homeless population, said Noah Fay, director of housing programs at the Downtown Emergency Services Center, which runs the shelter.

"Honestly my fear would be this is what it’s like everywhere," Fay said, "a reflection of how prevalent COVID is at this point."