Inside a quarantine hotel: Black mold, armed guards and TV dinners

By Hannah Smoot
September 18, 2020

Like a “lonely summer camp.” A guest patient takes us inside Charlotte’s COVID-19 quarantine hotel.

It’s easy to see something’s changed at the Econo Lodge near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Just off Interstate 85, not far from the Waffle House, the parking lot is blocked off by cones and most of the rooms are empty.

Armed guards patrol 24-7, according to packets given to guests during check-in.

But the guests aren’t checking in for vacations or business trips.

The people inside have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for test results. They come voluntarily but don’t have anywhere else to safely quarantine — most are coming from homeless shelters or multi-family homes.

County health officials have leased the building as a quarantine hotel, taking care of guests there for the past six months, with the help of local health care workers. Largely shut off to the outside world, very little has been known about how many people are inside the hotel or what conditions are like.

The Charlotte Observer conducted hours of interviews over several weeks with one of the quarantine hotel’s residents, who offers an inside look at the experience. Aaron Hall, a 32-year-old from Kansas City, stayed there for 10 days and nine nights in August.

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The Charlotte Journalism Collaborative is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems.