Coronavirus: Texas National Guard deployed to El Paso to assist with morgue crisis

EL PASO, Texas — The Texas National Guard deployed 36 troops to El Paso on Saturday to assist the Medical Examiner’s Office, as novel coronavirus-related deaths surge and space for the storage of bodies continues to dwindle.

“What’s backing us up is the funeral homes unable to take the bodies, and that’s what’s holding. That’s why we have the trailers. That’s why we have the morgues full,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told KTSM, calling the number of bodies “horrible.”

“We have 250 plus bodies at the trailers and at the morgue at this time, and we have over 480 (deaths) under investigation,” Samaniego added.

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Meanwhile, the city of El Paso, in partnership with the county, has secured a central morgue location to boost storage capacity and further support the Medical Examiner’s Office, funeral homes and mortuaries, KFOX reported.

The county had already secured the assistance of inmates and temporary morgue attendants to address a backlog of nearly 250 bodies, and the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office has also advertised multiple job openings in recent weeks for morgue attendants, the TV station reported.

El Paso County Commissioner David Stout told KTSM that the plan is for the deployed guardsmen to assist while a secondary morgue is constructed.

“I’m not exactly sure where the alternate site is yet. I’m not sure if it’s been decided where it’s going to be. But the point of having that is we need overflow space, and it’s basically going to be a building that we are going to be able to refrigerate and keep at a cooler temperature as opposed to bringing in more of these mobile morgues,” Stout told the TV station.

The county currently has a total of 10 mobile morgues, six of which are being used, to assist the Medical Examiner’s Office, which has exceeded capacity, KTSM reported.

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