Morgue trucks are being ordered by Texas counties and Phoenix, Arizona, as the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases in the states move into the next chilling phase: an overwhelming death toll.
Even as Arizona county morgues are reaching capacity, White House officials insisted to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego recently that everything is under control and that she’s being too demanding reaching out for help, she told local ABC15 TV Friday.
“I’m heartbroken … it’s been a rough week for me,” Gallego said. “We are losing too many Arizonans,” she added, and again urged Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to mandate face masks in public throughout the state. She and other mayors are also pleading with Ducey to restrict business activity to help stem the spread of the disease.
The morgue at Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is at 96% capacity. The Maricopa County Unified Command Center is working with the local Department of Emergency Management to “secure a contract for refrigerator trucks” to serve as makeshift morgues, officials said in a statement.
The city’s largest hospital network, Abrazos Health, has also ordered “refrigerated storage,” even though it currently has “adequate morgue space,” according to officials.
Arizona is steadily breaking records for daily new cases of COVID-19. Cases in the state hit nearly 120,000 Saturday after jumping 3,038 in a single day, with a total of 2,151 deaths, according to the state health department.
Gallego said Phoenix is the “largest city in the country that has not yet received federal surge testing” help, even though she has been requesting it “for months.” The Trump administration told Gallego to send residents to Walgreens for testing, triggering long lines in crushing Arizona heat for some 50 available tests at the stores. (See the video above.) Federal officials recently told Gallego that they will step up testing efforts.
Morgues are also overwhelmed in Texas, where COVID-19 cases hit another daily record Saturday of 10,351, pushing the total to more than 250,000,000 with a total so far of 3,112 deaths.
The morgue in Nueces County, where Corpus Christi is located, hit capacity Wednesday and ordered a second refrigerated truck from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“That’s why we’re asking people to wear face masks,” Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales told NBC-affiliate KRIS-TV. “I am now having to order additional body bags and morgue trailers. People have to understand how real it is.”
Morgues in Austin, Travis, Cameron and Hidalgo Counties now either have refrigerator trailers for the dead, or have ordered them, The Texas Tribune reported.
A particularly chilling sign of the death rates from COVID-19 at the height of the coronavirus surge in New York City were the white semi-trailer-sized morgue trucks lined up outside a number of hospitals. Forklifts were used to transport some of the bodies into the refrigerated trucks as relatives sobbed nearby.
- Stay up to date with our live blog as we cover the COVID-19 pandemic
- 7 essential pieces of relationship advice for couples in quarantine
- What you need to know about face masks right now
- How to tell if you need to start doing online therapy
- Lost your job due to coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know.
- Parenting during the coronavirus crisis?
- The HuffPost guide to working from home
- What coronavirus questions are on your mind right now? We want to help you find answers.
Everyone deserves accurate information about COVID-19. Support journalism without a paywall — and keep it free for everyone — by becoming a HuffPost member today.