City of Austin establishing alternative isolation facility for first responders and healthcare workers

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is establishing an isolation facility specifically for city workers and first responders to isolate themselves if they don’t want to risk bringing potential COVID-19 contagions into their family homes.

The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said it is standing up a “crew rest facility.” This would be in addition to the Crown Plaza Hotel, a site the city has dubbed “Austin-Travis County Isolation Facility One.” This hotel has 292 rooms, 204 of which have been specifically categorized for COVID-19 isolation and quarantine.

The decision comes as many first responders and hospital workers are making the tough choice to find alternative places to stay to keep their loved ones from becoming sick.

City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said in a virtual town hall on Wednesday that her husband, an Austin firefighter, has intentionally moved out to keep from getting her and her children exposed to potential threats he encounters on the job.

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“He’s coming in direct contact with COVID-19. I’m immunocompromised. So, between me and the kids, it’s not safe for him to come back to this house,” Harper-Madison said. “First responders are in need of a place to go. We have a place for him to go, but that’s a point of privilege and we recognize that wholeheartedly. There are families that don’t have that option.”

Elisheba Zarahiah and her daughters Jordan and Aiah are healthcare workers in Austin. Afraid to expose their elderly family to potential threats, they’ve decided to take refuge at a hotel in Cedar Park.

“It’s been scary but you just deal with it one day at a time,” Zarahiah said. “Our savings have been pretty much depleted.”

For now, the new isolation facility likely wouldn’t apply to them. The city said it will likely be held for city workers and first responders. The Zarahiah’s said they will continue searching for options.

“We love our family and we want them to be as safe as possible. It would be detrimental if they were to catch this virus at their age.”

Tonight on KXAN News at 10 p.m., Alex Caprariello will speak to a family of three nurses who have decided to stay at a hotel in Cedar Park rather than expose their loved ones to the contagions they potentially encounter on a daily basis.

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