Post #549: Repurpose the Wolf Trap Motel

Posted on March 13, 2020

I mean, now.  This post has nothing to do with MAC zoning.  In the current situation, the Wolf Trap Motel is an asset, and in this post, I urge the Town Council to realize that.  Even though, as discussed in Post #535, the Town nominally has no public health role.  I really don’t care about the niceties at this point.  If Italy is the model, we’re maybe 1.5 weeks from having the poop hit the fan.  I’d like to see that the Town of Vienna is anticipating that, and doing what it can.

A Not-Irrelevant Paean

To explain this, let me say that my mom was a public health nurse prior to the era of antibiotics.

A world without antibiotics. Think about that. Hard to grasp.  But, with a few caveats, antibiotics are a post-WWII phenomenon.

That’s fundamentally no different from a world with a novel viral infection.  There’s no cure for the current coronavirus.

Prior to WWII, my mom worked at the Philadelphia Hospital for Infectious Diseases.  Then, during WWII, she worked for the US Army.

 (Parenthetically:  She took delight in the fact that her rank — lieutenant, afforded to all the nurses so that they wouldn’t be harassed — was above my father’s rank, a mere sergeant. Literally, she outranked my dad.  They met after the war.)

And after WWII, she taught her kids to wash their hands.  Else they might catch skelitis.  I was in college before I realized that there was, in fact, no such disease as skelitis.  It was just my mom’s way of getting her kids to wash their hands before they ate.

She saw doctors that she worked with die from the infectious diseases that the hospital was set up to prevent the spread of.  And now my nephew has decided on a career as an infectious disease MD.  Nuts, IMHO, but people have to do what they have to do.

Even now, if I take pills from a bottle, I follow proper procedure.  As she taught me.  Spill the pills out onto the inverted cap, pour from that back into the bottle until you have the correct amount, then pour from the cap to your hand.  Never, under any circumstances, take pills that you have touched and put them back in the bottle.

This stuff mattered, back in the day.  Reference “die” above.  So it was a different time.  It was an era without antibiotics.  All you could do was quarantine the infected, and pay attention to hygiene.  Hence, the Philadelphia Hospital.

Fast forward, and … the current situation is not so different.  There is no antibiotic for the coronavirus.  And mortality rates for the elderly — which includes me at this point – are significant. Hygiene matters.

So it’s back to 1939:  Wash your hands, quarantine the sick, hope for the best.

This is all a windup to this:  What are we, the citizens of tiny little Vienna VA, going to do in the face of the coronavirus?  This is the 1918 Spanish Flu all over again, in terms of transmissibility of the illness and average mortality rate.  But this is targeting the elderly.  Which, even though I am in the target group, I think is an improvement on the 1918 flu, which targeted those in the prime of life.

If this works out here no worse than it has in Italy, we’re going to run out of hospital rooms.  I’ve harped on that already, on this blog.  I think you’re seeing that now, more broadly.  Public health agencies are actively looking at hotels as the reservoir of beds, with attached bathrooms, that can be used as quarantine facilities.

Given that developers are on a path to tear it down anyway, there’s really no “reputation” risk here.  So, please TOV:  Start talking to the owners of the Wolf Trap Motel, now, about setting aside a building or two for coronavirus quarantine.

I realize that’s not in the plan, but it needs to be done.  Because we, as a Town, don’t really have a plan.  If the roof needs repair, let the Town’s DPW do that, in exchange for preferential treatment in housing those in need, from Vienna.  This is really not the time to be splitting legal or payment hairs.

What are we going to do if Fairfax County runs out of hospital beds?  Can’t use nursing homes, and it looks like motels are now the choice if large group quarantine situations arise.  Now is the time to capitalize on that.  If it’s not needed, and people mock me after the fact, so be it.  I’ll wash my hands and move on.