FEMA sending 85 refrigerated trucks to New York City for COVID-19 bodies
New York City is so short on morgue space for coronavirus victims that FEMA is hauling in trailers to store all the bodies.
“We are sending refrigeration trucks to New York to help with some of the problem on a temporary basis,” FEMA regional direction Thomas Von Essen said at Manhattan press briefing with Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday.
The city is expecting FEMA to send 85 trucks. Although their capacity was not immediately available similar trailers already in use hold 40 bodies each. The additional FEMA trucks could double the city’s current morgue capacity from 3,500 to 7,000.
Von Essen, who served as FDNY commissioner during the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks, said the military has also sent 42 people to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Manhattan to help process the 790 fatalities.
Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the ME, said the military personnel are 42 Department of Defense Mortuary Affairs staffers who will assist with managing mobile morgues.
Von Essen said he’s also trying to build morgue capacity near Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, which is a hotspot for COVID-19 patients.
“We in New York City have a desperate need for help over in Queens. And we are working on that as we speak, there’s folks trying to put it all together. There’s only so many of these teams that military has,” Von Essen said.
“We have 50 states and a couple of territories and commonwealths that we are trying to, not hold back resources, but trying to make it, make a plan ready that works for the whole country. So, it’s difficult but everybody’s trying. And we will get more help here for New York,” he said.
Von Essen said there were no discussions of using large venues like Madison Square Garden to hold the dead.
“Fortunately, we are not thinking of anything like that,” he said.
Worthy-Davis said the city has purchased an additional 45 mobile morgues that can hold about 40 bodies each.
Healthcare workers were using forklifts to load bodies into a refrigerated truck at Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene Sunday. Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital was the first to get refrigerated trailers to house bodies last week.
Worthy-Davis said the city now has capacity for between 3,500 to 3,600 bodies with the makeshift morgues. Before the pandemic the city’s morgue capacity was just 900. She declined to say how many bodies were currently stored in the facilities.
Just five days ago de Blasio said there was still room for COVID-19 victims in city morgues.
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