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El Paso County bringing in mobile morgues as virus death toll grows

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KVIA
A morgue trailer at the El Paso County Medical Examiner's office.

EL PASO, Texas -- A mobile morgue is now in El Paso, and a second one is on its way due to the high rate of coronavirus deaths here, ABC-7 has learned.

The mobile morgue already in place is located outside the county Medical Examiner's Office, according to County Commissioner David Stout.

He said the Medical Examiner's morgue is at 75% capacity right now, and the mobile unit already here has a capacity of 20 bodies. The second unit, due to arrive next week, can hold up to 40 bodies.

Stout said acquiring the mobile morgues is a precautionary move as the county's death toll rises. The death toll as of Friday stood at 177 in El Paso County, with 18 deaths in just the past two days.

"This is very serious, and we're just seeing a huge increase in the number of cases and that means more people are going to be sick. That means more people are going to be in the hospital," he told ABC-7. "There are folks - many, many folks who have underlying conditions."

El Paso becomes the latest Texas county to receive refrigerated trailers to hold bodies as morgues fill up across the state.

According to recent reports from the Texas Tribune and CNN, other Texas communities doing similar include:

  • In Corpus Christi, where their morgue is already full, Nueces County received an extra morgue trailer provided by FEMA. The refrigerated truck has a temperature-control system and can accommodate up to 40 more bodies, adding to the current 12-body capacity located inside the morgue building itself.
  • The city of Austin and Travis County have procured a refrigerated truck "to face the surge in Covid-19 deaths,” officials there said.
  • Cameron County bought a 53-foot refrigerated trailer in preparation for its morgue becoming full.
  • Hidalgo County is sharing a refrigerated FEMA trailer with neighboring Cameron County.
  • In Houston, HCA Healthcare Northwest has a refrigerated trailer that is being used as temporary storage before the transfer of bodies from the hospital to funeral homes.
  • Williamson County assembled a mobile morgue it ordered from a vendor to be prepared for the worst.
  • The city of San Antonio and Bexar County have secured several refrigerated trailers to store bodies until they can be released to funeral homes.
  • The Dallas County morgue has been using an external refrigerated truck due to the increased caseload.

With skyrocketing coronavirus hospitalizations in numerous Sun Belt states, hard-hit counties in Arizona are also bringing in refrigerated trucks as their morgues fill up too.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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