From conventions to quarantines: Juneau’s Centennial Hall gets repurposed

The interior of Centennial Hall. The facility has multiple rooms and large movable walls that divide the main room. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

The City and Borough of Juneau is setting up a facility for residents who are unable to isolate or quarantine in their own homes.

The plan is to use Centennial Hall to isolate people who have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization, and to quarantine those who may have been exposed.

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City Manager Rorie Watt spoke about the plan on KTOO’s Juneau Afternoon on Tuesday.

“We certainly don’t need it today, but the emergency planners are doing that effort, and I think the general theory is: Prepare for the worst,” Watt said.

The facility will be split into two separate areas. One will be for people who have already tested positive. The other area is for those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, whether through travel or close contact with someone who has tested positive. Those individuals will remain quarantined for 14 days to make sure that symptoms don’t develop.

So far, most people who have been tested for COVID-19 or recently traveled outside of Juneau have been able to quarantine at home. But Watt said that may not be the best option for everyone.

“In a lot of cases, it may not be practical for people to quarantine themselves in their home, just because too many people, one bathroom, small space,” Watt said.

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Mount Jumbo Gym in Douglas will be used as a temporary facility until Centennial Hall is ready to open. Once operational, staff will be on site at all times.

Beth Weigel is the spokesperson for the city’s Emergency Operations Center, which is coordinating the local COVID-19 response. In an email, she wrote that the Douglas gym has 20 cots set up.

The city is working with multiple community partners to open the facility. A food task force is working on coordinating meals for people in quarantine at home or in the facility. Kensington Gold Mine has donated a portable shower trailer.

According to the state’s latest figures, 14 people in Juneau had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday. According to the city, seven of those people have recovered so far.

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