‘A mass fatality event’: California struggles with backlog of bodies of COVID-19 victims

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

With hospital morgues overwhelmed by soaring numbers of bodies amid a surge in COVID-19 deaths, hard-hit parts of California are struggling to store the bodies of those who have died.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office is accelerating efforts to temporarily store corpses as the local death toll hits record levels.

This week, six members of the California National Guard arrived to assist county workers in transferring bodies from hospital morgues to 12 refrigerated storage units parked at the coroner’s office, said Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the office. Additional helpers from the National Guard are expected to come next week.

Last spring, the coroner’s office had anticipated a surge in the dead and quadrupled its storage capacity to at least 2,000 bodies by bringing in the 12 refrigerated trailers, according to Ardalani. There are also additional trailers that can each hold about 25 bodies.

As of Monday, the coroner’s office was holding 757 bodies.

At the end of November, the beginning of the most recent COVID-19 surge in deaths, the containers held only about 60 bodies.

Then the pace of fatalities began rising. In early December, about 30 people a day were dying; by Saturday, the seven-day average was about 200 people a day.

More than 4,400 COVID-19 deaths have been reported since Dec. 1, an astonishing number in just a matter of weeks. The cumulative number of dead in L.A. County from the disease is more than 12,000, a milestone that was crossed Saturday.

In just the last five days alone, an average of about 250 COVID-19 deaths a day have been reported in L.A. County. That’s higher than the average number of daily deaths from all other causes combined, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, car crashes, suicides and homicides, which is about 170.

Publish : 2021-01-10 15:07:00

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