Coronavirus: El Paso activates 4th mobile morgue as COVID-19 death toll mounts

EL PASO COUNTY, Texas — As new COVID-19 infections swamp El Paso area hospitals, medical examiners received a fourth refrigerated morgue for temporary storage of bodies late Sunday.

“I think you’re going to see tremendous more deaths coming up in the next two to three days,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told KFOX.

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The mobile unit was dispatched as the number of novel coronavirus patients succumbing to the virus outpaces the capacity of medical personnel to assess their cases, NPR reported.

“People that die are under investigation, to see if they died of COVID-19 and to discern whether or not they had other diseases. That holds back the process,” Samaniego told KFOX, noting that by Sunday the county had a backlog of 85 bodies requiring a medical investigation.

News of the additional morgue capacity materialized the day after Samaniego tweeted that officials were “working on creating more space” in the parking lot of the medical examiner’s office, NPR reported.

According to KVIA, El Paso reported 1,200 new COVID-19 infections and confirmed the county exceeded 600 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Samaniego has come under fire since imposing a countywide shelter-in-place order, shuttering all non-essential businesses across El Paso and the surrounding areas until the end of the day Nov. 11, NPR reported.

While the closures, which took effect just before midnight Friday, affect salons, gyms, tattoo parlors and in-person dining at restaurants, it does not impact essential businesses such as child care facilities, polling sites or grocery stores, the outlet reported.

By Monday morning, El Paso health officials confirmed 978 COVID-19 patients remain hospitalized and 273 of those patients are in intensive-care units.

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