SOUTH BEND — The city of South Bend will lease the Motel 6 on Indiana 933 in Roseland as an isolation center for the 安徽福彩快3走势图less who have the coronavirus.
The city’s Board of Public Works on Tuesday unanimously approved spending at least $270,000 to lease the hotel from Tuesday through June 14, as a “temporary quarantine site for the 安徽福彩快3走势图less,” with the potential to extend it another 30 days if needed.
The hotel also will be open to people who have tested positive for the virus or are awaiting test results, such as health care workers, who can stop for the night because they don’t want to risk exposing people they live with, Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce, told the city’s common council at a meeting Monday night.
Rea, coordinating COVID-19 response for the city and St. Joseph County, declined to identify the hotel Monday night when answering Council Member Sharon McBride’s question about plans to isolate the 安徽福彩快3走势图less with the virus so they don’t infect others at shelters.
“We’ve been somewhat reluctant to release the location, primarily because of the reputational piece that might go with this,” Rea told the council. “We don’t want ‘Sharon’s Hotel’ to now become ‘The COVID Hotel,’ and have nobody want to stay there in the future because it has the reputation of housing patients that traditionally had tested positive. Obviously I’m not sure if we’ll be able to keep that completely quiet.”
Pam Meyer, the city’s director of neighborhood development, said she expects the hotel to start housing people Thursday. There is plenty of room at the hotel, as it has been closed to the public.
“It’s really a regional facility that’s aimed at helping St. Joe, Elkhart, Marshall, Fulton and Kosciusko counties but we think most of the population will come from Elkhart and St. Joseph counties,” Rea said.
The $270,000 lease price was based on the hotel’s room rate multiplied by the 82 rooms available for use, out of 96 total rooms in the building. The city has budgeted a total of about $500,000 for the project, including hiring round-the-clock security and site managers, a bed bug exterminator, a cleaning service that will sterilize rooms to hospital grade after a guest leaves, and paying people to drive guests from hospitals and elsewhere, Meyer said.
The site is about three miles from downtown, where most 安徽福彩快3走势图less services are located, but since transportation and food is being provided, the location doesn’t matter, said David Vanderveen, executive director of Hope Ministries.
“The idea is that obviously if you put somebody in an isolation site, they stay there for 14 days or whatever their medical provider tells them,” Vanderveen said. “You do not want them to leave. There doesn’t need to be the ability for people to move back and forth, as long as you can transport people to the site and back from the site when they don’t need to be there anymore.”
Dr. Mark Fox, the county’s deputy health officer, said he knew of no one who had tested positive for the virus at any 安徽福彩快3走势图less shelters. Vanderveen said Hope had put a symptomatic resident up in a hotel while she awaited test results, but she tested negative and has moved back in. Three other residents, out of about 100 total Hope residents, have tested negative, Vanderveen said.
“But we know that could happen at any time so we’re very grateful,” he said. “We think it’s a critical resource to have in the community. Our preference was for it to be at a hotel or motel. It allows people to have individual rooms and bathrooms and truly remain isolated from each other.”
The St. Joseph County Health Department will staff nurses and provide medical students.
South Bend Mayor James Mueller said the city has not asked any other local governments to help pay the costs, but he is confident that “the bulk” of the city’s spending will be reimbursed by state and federal money that has been earmarked for such projects.
“We know that time is of the essence and we know as the biggest city (in the area), we had to lead on this issue,” Mueller said.
Mueller said the city might add more hotels later.
“This is a little preliminary but if you look at the different proposals to reopen the economy, we may have to look at a strategy for larger scale isolation sites for more people,” Mueller said, “but right now this is the primary one as we work through this first surge.”
South Bend joins a growing number of cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, that are buying or renting hotels, emptied by the pandemic, to isolate the 安徽福彩快3走势图less who contract the virus. Vince Dora, president of Fishers-based Dora Hospitality, which manages the hotel, said he is working with other communities on similar agreements, but South Bend is the company’s first such partner.
“South Bend has done a great job being organized and knowing what they wanted and needed,” Dora said. “We didn’t have to spend much time telling them about our concerns with protecting our employees and any interactions with the folks they are bringing in. They had already thought a lot of that through themselves. Hopefully the other communities will do just as well.”
But not everyone is pleased with how the city has handled the project. Elizabeth McCombs, Roseland town council president, said she was “flabbergasted” that city and county officials didn’t tell town officials about the isolation site. They first learned about it in The Tribune Tuesday.
“The town of Roseland had no notice whatsoever, not the council, not the police, not the fire department and not the maintenance department,” McCombs said. “Shame on them. I’m heartbroken. I have cried all day. It is a block and a half from my house. I’m a senior. This is unbelievable. The city of South Bend, who can’t deal with their 安徽福彩快3走势图less or their sick people, are dumping them on the town of Roseland.”
But Fox said the town’s roughly 600 residents, most of them older adults, have nothing to worry about.
“I guess I can appreciate the concern but it does not pose any significant risk to the community, by the way that it’s structured and the population and the purpose that it’s serving,” Fox said. “It was a decision of an individual business owner to do this. These will be people who are in isolation or quarantine and won’t really be leaving the property. There will be administrative staff there helping to reinforce those expectations.”