CORONAVIRUS: King County conference call reveals new information about Top Hat quarantine/isolation site

(This is also published on our partner site West Seattle Blog)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

New information on the King County quarantine/isolation facility planned at 206 SW 112th in Top Hat, just east of White Center, first announced Tuesday. The new details emerged in a conference call meeting that county reps organized for community members; we were on that call, which just concluded, for WCN and partner site West Seattle Blog.

The site will start up with two 4-room trailers, with up to six more when a vacant building on the site is demolished. (Above are our photos after the first trailer was delivered Tuesday – the county had 14 in storage on Harbor Island.) The county has now decided NOT to open the site until utilities including water/sewer are hooked up to the trailers’ built-in bathrooms – they originally had said they would start with portable toilets and hand-washing stations but have scrapped that plan. They expect the connections will be complete by the middle of next week.

The site will NOT have medical staff – but the county plans to “check in” with people at least twice a day. They also plan to deliver food and other supplies. And they will have 24-hour security who will “notify” county reps if someone leaves the site.

Who will be there? Criteria are still being developed, the county reps said. Three scenarios were mentioned for starters – people who are traveling and have nowhere else to go, people who are unhoused, people who can’t “self-quarantine” because of a situation at their home such as an at-risk person also living there.

How long will someone stay? If they’re being tested – until the test results are in, if those results are negative. If they’re ill, “until they’ve recovered.”

The call wasn’t strictly informational – strong opposition was voiced, primarily by people pointing out that the area is home to low-income people and other marginalized populations and should not have to bear this burden and risk. “10,000 people are opposed” was mentioned – apparently a reference to this online petition. But county reps were clear – this decision has been made and will not change.

Those on the call, besides several staffers from various county departments such as Local Services, included County Councilmember Joe McDermott and Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta. McDermott said County Executive Dow Constantine‘s request for emergency funding will be approved at next Tuesday’s King County Council meeting.

We have a few other details to add shortly.

ADDED 12:58 PM: First, for those wondering about the other two quarantine sites, the county has provided these addresses – 531 Elliott Avenue West [map] in Interbay and 1132 N. 128th Street [map] in North Seattle. The Top Hat site was formerly home to the Wilderness Technology Alliance.

Julie Hiatt of the North Highline Fire District, which serves the area, was on the call and said NHFD had not even had a meeting with the county to talk about this; one was promised. County reps also said they were not intending for NHFD to have to transport patients to/from the site; they are working with potential providers such as Tri-Med.

One community member on the call was aghast at the single-security-guard plan: “You’re bringing this into poor communties and telling us there’s going to be one security guard for people who might leave?” Security plans would be re-evaluated along the way, county reps said. Another community member: “If this is going to spread, this is not the community you want it to spread in – most (nearby) people don’t even have health insurance.” The site is in a densely populated area of North Highline, with neighboring apartment complexes including the huge new Southside by Vintage across SW 112th.

Another community member: “It seems like an experiment. … The community does not want this facility here. It’s going to cause death … There is death attached to this facility.” County reps countered that this was meant to save lives; Local Services director John Taylor countered, “The consequence to the community of not doing this could be disastrous.”

The call ended after an hour but more communication including an email list was promised.

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17 Responses to “CORONAVIRUS: King County conference call reveals new information about Top Hat quarantine/isolation site”

  1. Mark Ufkes Says:

    Thanks for the helpful update. As a White Center resident, I am honored that our community will play such an important role in supporting this crisis. The site will serve families just like yours and mine. Please everyone, take a step back from hysteria.

    When a homeless facility was proposed here, some people acted the same way. “Never here,, end of the world, oh my God, shouting over each other, claiming to be the only voice in White Center; all stuff of fear and insecurity. And how did King County respond; with Mary’s Place, that most of us are proud of now, a facility full of grace and a helping hand.

    And I find it ironic that the anti-low income housing voices here (mostly white) claim that poor people in White Center are a burden, and declare that more affordable housing here is “dumping on White Center”. And now, voices on the call referenced above about the quarantine facility (which I was on) are using exactly the same “dumping on White Center” argument.

    Every community needs to do its part with the homeless crisis, every single community. White Center has, with Mary’s Place and Camp Second Chance. And now we have with this quarantine site. Let’s take the moral high ground here. We should be a proud example showing our nation how to be a good neighbor. After all, West Seattle and Burien will get future quarantine sites before we get another, and until then, we will be morally superior to both.

    Mark Ufkes

  2. Mark Flanders Says:


    I completely agree. These are very difficult times and as a White Center resident over 60, I am proud to see us do what we can for the common good. We should set an example.

    M. J. Flanders

  3. Randall Fox Says:

    Quarantine sites? Don’t you mean concentration camps?

  4. “When a homeless facility was proposed here, some people acted the same way. “Never here,, end of the world, oh my God, shouting over each other, claiming to be the only voice in White Center; all stuff of fear and insecurity. And how did King County respond; with Mary’s Place, that most of us are proud of now, a facility full of grace and a helping hand.”

    I was on that committee. No, King County did not “respond with Mary’s Place”. The county was planning in opening an all-male, low-barrier shelter. Why all male? Why no couples allowed? Why no children allowed? Because a “low-barrier” shelter is deemed unsafe for women and children. Yet King County was going to place this low-barrier shelter next to the White Center Food Bank, right next to Cascade Middle School, Evergreen High School, Evergreen pool, and Dick Thurneau Park.

    Some if the local neighbors, including myself, did not agree with placing a low-barrier shelter that close to schools and parks. To be super clear, most of us did not have an issue that there was going to be a homeless shelter. It was the fact that it was a low-barrier shelter, where men could show up at all hours and in any condition.

    So a committee was formed. This committee was open to any neighbor who wanted to join. No restrictions.

    First, the committee convinced the county to delay opening the low-barrier shelter until we could make a formal recommendation.

    Second, the committee showed King County some homeless statistics specific to White Center and the surrounding areas, not the County as a whole (the County’s plan was to bus men to the low-barrier shelter). Specifically, we showed King County how White Center has some of the highest student homeless rates in the state.

    Third, the committee presented King County with our formal recommendation: to replace the low-barrier shelter with a Mary’s Place, which would A) be a better fit for our community’s needs and B) would be safer for the students attending nearby schools. After multiple meetings over multiple months, King County eventually agreed to change their plans.

    So, no, King County does not deserve credit for bringing Mary’s Place, a “facility full of grace and a helping hand”. Your neighbors do.

  5. Mark Ufkes Says:

    Thanks for the coverage. As a White Center resident, I was on the call too. I am honored that we in White Center are able to do our part to address this crisis. It will serve families just like yours and mine. And the argument “not in our town” is the same argument used to build Trumps wall. We should take the moral high ground here and be an example of grace and good will for those who are sick. Remember the golden rule; do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. And please step back from the hysteria. It’s going to be fine.

    Mark Ufkes

  6. Neila Stotts Says:

    Your have got to be kidding me why in this neighborhood this should be in a less populated area why here ????

  7. For clarification and facts and the truth, Mary’s Place is in White Center because of the diligence and dedication of a small group of residents who formed a committee to seek out alternatives to King County’s plans for a “low-barrier” shelter. It took a lot of hard work and convincing for the county to agree on our request to scrap their plans for this “low-barrier” shelter and to replace it with Mary’s Place.  We are pleased that Mary’s Place found a welcoming home here – but it is only here because of the involvement and concern of our community.

    Additionally, I participated in the conference call on Friday, 3/6.  Although Mark Ufkes spoke at how honored he was to have the facility in Top Hat, he was the only voice in support of this quarantine site. The audio of the mtg is available and I listened to it again to make sure that I did not miss anything.

    As I heard the first time, the voices of opposition were people representing immigrant and refugee groups, people living in the large Vintage complex directly across the street from the quarantine site, and  other marginalized groups. Real concern and fear were expressed as well as the feeling that the county is putting this site there “because they can”.  Mark Ufkes said several times that no community wanted it, as though this was good enough reason to put it here.

    The site is surrounded by apartments. 1000’s of our most vulnerable residents live in this area. An area that has suffered more than it’s fair share of neglect.

    I agree, we need quarantine sites – but to place it in the middle of a high density, low income area, where many people do not have the same advantages of our more affluent neighborhoods, is not great planning.

  8. I’m split… We are ultimately in this altogether and i can tolerate the presence of a site as such in my neighborhood. However, the density and the makeup of the population at this location shows disregard for the residents by King county.

    The idea that the count’s original intention was to have portable toilets and hand washing stations is disturbing… By whom and how would contaminated waste be handled? That really shows a lack of foresight. And even with hooking up the utilities; with no medical staff and presumably no bihazard handling protocals, again how will waste be handled?

    On paper, it shows King County is acting. But the actions seem to be lacking in details and planning that would both provide the appropriate care in a safe environment for the potetially ill, and demonstrate to the community that the neighborhood residents’ interests and well being are considered.

  9. It appears that our State, The CDC, and our elected representatives have no respect or love for communities like White Center. They continually dump drug addicts, criminals, homeless, Corona Virus patients, immigrants, encampments, whatever vulnerable, dangerous, or infectious situation they refuse to manage competently, into our laps to live with. They want US to do their jobs by trying to come up with solutions ourselves, then they won’t even support us. They devalue our property, which is going to be a result of these quarantine trailers. They impose encampments. They attract druggies and desperate people from far and wide to come take advantage of our nonexistent laws and victimize our residents. We have something close to 57 different languages spoken in White Center. Our community is not a “white people’s” community. We are as diverse as it gets. Liberals are always paying lip service to “diversity”, but their actions betray their hypocrisy. And we only sit passively and attack anyone who objects to this treatment as having no sympathy or compassion. We pay our taxes, rent, mortgages, insurance, utilities, go to work, and pay all the many fees, tolls and bills just like everyone else, but obviously we don’t count as much.

  10. I agree that the area’s density and proximity to schools, apartment complexes and bus lines are the problem and the reason for the push back.

  11. Mark Ufkes Says:

    This is probably the same Barbara who has been against more affordable housing here for years because she states that poor people “are a drain on White Center”. About 20 people were on a conference call, and none of us “speak for White Center”, though several on the call claimed that they did. All I said was that as a resident here, I was honored that we were doing our part. If you get Corona virus Barbara, should we ask you to leave White Center since you are against the quarantine site? Please stop feeding the hysteria folks and quit fanning the fear. We are going to be fine, we will get through this, and when the next bug hits (and one will surely hit again in our lifetimes) we will be even more prepared than we are now.

  12. Margaret Flynn Says:

    Mark Ufkes enough. Let the people speak. Virus is transmitted through community contact. Putting people in trailers will lead to quarantined individuals roaming about White Center stores and restaurants. That’s a fact. Concern is valid. #wearmaskstoo

  13. to LA: well said.

  14. Patrick, thank for you for additionally documenting how Mary’s Place came to find a home in White Center.

    Mark Ufkes has a history of playing with the truth- Anyone can listen to the transcript of the March 6 conference call with the county and hear for themselves who exactly were the voices of opposition – you will find the Mark Ufkes version is flat out wrong –

    And with little to defend himself with he went to his usual tactic of trying to destroy the credibility of someone speaking the truth – the quote you attempt to attribute to me is nothing more than something you made up –

    It is reckless and careless to not speak the truth and attempt to edit history.

    and I firmly stand in what I previously said – it is very poor planning to place this quarantine site in one if our communities most densely, underserved areas.

    It should also be noted that Ufkes lives a good distance from the previously proposed Low-barrier men’s shelter, that he supported, as well as the quarantine site that he so adamantly supports.

  15. After reading through the many responses on Next Door from a fairly large group of people who live in the greater North Highline area and neighborhoods surrounding North Highline, it seems to me many people are concerned and confused by the placement of the facility in Top Hat.

    What struck me was the similarity of the posts from people who lived near the facility versus the similarity of the posts from people who lived further away.

    In general, the people who live in neighborhoods closest to the facility were the most concerned, confused, and angry.

    The people who are live in the neighborhoods the furthest away from the quarantine facility are the people who seem to hold the viewpoint that it isn’t a big deal.

    One person from a neighborhood much further away wrote “because they’re sending it (the corona virus) your way by means of planting a quarantine unit next door” in response to a post from someone very close to the facility who was clearly concerned and frightened.

    This is only an observation, but if it is a representation of the community voice, I would say that distance does make difference in how a situation might be viewed. This would support the viewpoints of people above such as Patrick, Barbara, Jim, LA, and Julie.

    It also seems the majority of the people posting on Next Door aren’t people who are part of any community group, as most of the responses are from people who didn’t seem to know there were community groups in the neighborhoods. Hence, I suppose you could assume there aren’t a large number of movers and shakers from a community group who were using Next Door as a forum for their own points of view.

  16. I don’t think people who use that platform understand they’re shouting into the wind. Its out-of-state megacorporate owners keep it behind walls so it’s invisible to, and cut off from, the rest of the world, unlike the open web, unlike public meetings (shame we don’t have the option now when they’re sorely needed). Worse, no one on walled social media is accountable for correcting factual errors, misconceptions, etc., so they get magnified and spread around … hmm, kind of like viruses. But don’t get me started.

  17. The King County Council should be required to stay in their facility. Until the coronavirus scare has ran it’s course. That would help ensure nobody’s civil rights have been violated.