New York has asked FEMA for emergency help as the city’s morgues could reach capacity within a week.
Officials fear the city may be running out of space to store the dead as fatalities from the coronavirus continue to soar.
A makeshift morgue is already being set up outside Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital as officials warn that there is only enough room for 900 bodies to be stored across the five boroughs of America’s largest city.
During a briefing on Wednesday, officials at the Department of Homeland Security were told that New York’s morgues are reaching capacity, according to Politico.
A department official said they were told the morgues in New York City are expected to reach capacity by next week.
Another source told the outlet that some of the city’s hospital morgues hit capacity over the past seven days.
New York City officials have asked FEMA for emergency help as the area’s morgues are expected to reach capacity within a week. Pictured: Workers build a makeshift morgue outside Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan on Thursday
New York City has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, with more than 20,000 cases and 280 deaths from the virus as of early Thursday morning
New York City has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, with more than 20,000 cases and 280 deaths from the virus as of early Thursday morning.
More than 2,800 people in the city are hospitalized because of the virus – double the figure from three days earlier – and more than 600 are being treated in intensive care.
The Big Apple accounts for more than half the cases in the country’s hardest hit state, where there are now 30,000 coronavirus cases and close to 300 deaths.
There are currently about 53,000 beds and 3,000 intensive care unit beds available in New York hospitals, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who warned that the state could need 140,000 beds and 40,000 ICU beds to cope with the outbreak.
New York state currently has a 12 percent hospitalization rate in relation to coronavirus, Cuomo said.
To prepare for an expected surge in deaths, officials began erecting the makeshift facility outside Bellevue Hospital this week.
Armed military personnel, NYPD and NYC Medical Examiner’s Office employees were seen setting up huge, dome-like white tents in the parking lot on Wednesday.
Multiple refrigeration trucks were also lined up at the site in Midtown along 30th Street and the FDR Drive parkway.
Workers build a makeshift morgue outside Bellevue Hospital to handle an expected surge in coronavirus fatalities on Wednesday
Crew members erected huge white tents on Wednesday as part of the makeshift facility
Refrigerated trailers are also parked at the temporary morgue site
Military personnel and members of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at Bellevue hospital where a makeshift morgue is being built with refrigerated trailers and tents
Cuomo and other state officials are desperately seeking additional medical equipment and hospital beds to keep up with the surging number of critical cases.
They’ve also called for more doctors and nurses to join the fight against the virus, prompting New York University to offer to let its medical students graduate early so they can enlist.
All 19 million residents of New York state were placed under a stay at home order on March 20 after Cuomo temporarily banned ‘all non-essential gatherings’ to curb the spread of the virus.
Worldwide, the death toll climbed past 20,000, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead in the US topped 1,000, with more than 68,000 infections.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking during a news conference at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 outbreak
A spokesman from the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that New York has asked for emergency mortuary assistance and that the disaster response agency is reviewing the request.
A former senior administration official said that as coronavirus deaths rise and morgues reach capacity, federal help will become available.
This assistance could come in the form of the Department of Health and Human Services oversees the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, which can establish temporary morgues and operate in response to requests from local authorities.
Despite the alarm, Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said that the concerns about morgue capacity may be unfounded.
She told Politico: ‘We have the ability to expand pretty dramatically. If you look back at what we did during 9/11, we have the ability to create mobile stations that allow us to house bodies if we run out of space.’
Worthy-Davis speculated that the concern over morgue capacity may be stemming from hospitals’ morgues, which tend to be smaller and could run out of space sooner.
After New York’s first positive test came back on March 1 – in a health care worker who had traveled to Iran and secluded herself upon returning – Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo initially cast the disease as a dangerous threat but one that the city’s muscular hospital system could handle.
Late on Wednesday night in Washington, the US Senate passed a $2.2 trillion conomic rescue package in response to pandemic. The House of Representatives will vote on the package on Friday.