23:24 GMT04 August 2020
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    Counties in Arizona and Texas have recently issued requests for refrigerated trucks after almost running out of space to store bodies in their morgues amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

    According to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, an Abrazo Community Health Network location in the greater Phoenix area as well as the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office are nearing capacity in their morgues. 

    "I'm heartbroken ... it's been a rough week for me," Gallego told ABC15 last week. "We are losing too many Arizonans.” 

    However, despite Gallego’s statement, Abrazo released its own statement last week, saying that it did have sufficient capacity. 

    "Abrazo hospitals currently have adequate morgue space. The state has requested that hospitals implement their emergency plans. Part of activating our plan includes the ability to handle overflow morgue capacity if needed. Abrazo has taken a proactive approach by ordering refrigerated storage in the event it may be needed during a surge of COVID patients. At this point it is not needed,” reads the statement, obtained by ABC15.

    “We do agree with the Mayor’s points around promoting awareness around masking, continuing to practice social distancing and seeking medical care in the event of an emergency need.”

    The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office has also revealed that its morgue space is at around 96% capacity. 

    “Our planners at Unified Command are moving toward acquiring coolers and staffing because OME [Office of the Medical Examiner] is currently near capacity for body storage,” Maricopa County spokeswoman Lisa Blyler told the Arizona Mirror last week. “This is a situation that occurs almost every summer and is further complicated by the current pandemic.”

    In Texas, Nueces County Medical Examiner Dr. Adel Shaker has requested a refrigerated truck that can hold up to 40 bodies.

    “That's why we're asking people to wear face masks," Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales told a TV station in Corpus Christi last week. "I am now having to order additional body bags and morgue trailers. People have to understand how real it is."

    Austin and Travis counties in Texas are also both "in the process of procuring a refrigerated truck to face the surge in COVID-19 deaths," Travis County public information officer Hector Nieto confirmed.

    The latest data from the Arizona Department of Public Health shows that more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases and 92 deaths have been reported so far on Tuesday. In Texas, almost 6,000 new cases have been reported so far on Tuesday, with at least 43 new fatalities. 

    When New York was the epicenter of the respiratory disease in March, refrigerated trucks were also used as makeshift morgues after the exponential death toll overwhelmed hospital facilities.

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    COVID-19, morgue, US
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