The large purchase of “human remains pouches” comes as more than 60,000 Americans have died due to the deadly virus, according to the latest data by Johns Hopkins University. The order for the body bags, for a price of $5.1 million, was made on April 21 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A small California supplier is expected to deliver the bags by May 4.
“In order to meet the worst-case demand models, FEMA initiated a broad range of acquisition contracts to augment available stocks and produce more human-remains pouches for future requirements should they be needed,” a FEMA spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.
In a separate request unrelated to this order, the US Defense Department said FEMA asked it to provide 100,000 body bags for civilian use, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.
FEMA took control over the pandemic response from the US Department of Health and Human Services in mid-March and is in charge of signing contracts for items like personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing kits and diapers for food banks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing contracting data.
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday acknowledged that more Americans would die because of COVID-19 than he had previously predicted. Trump’s previous estimate of 50,000 to 60,000 fatalities was based on a model developed by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The administration currently predicts that the death toll across the US could be between 60,000 and 70,000. With the nationwide toll surpassing 60,000 already, the final number may be closer to 70,000, if not more.
"So, yeah, we've lost a lot of people. But if you look at what original projections were, 2.2 million, we are probably heading to 60,000 to 70,000,” Trump said during a Monday Coronavirus Task Force briefing in the White House’s Rose Garden.
Despite the increase in nationwide deaths, some states, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska, South Carolina, Colorado, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee have started reopening their economies.