The true impact of COVID-19 will not be measured in numbers, but rather in the moments that were lost, like losing someone and not being there to say good-bye. This pandemic has stolen that for many families, as somber goodbyes at gatherings such as funerals have been impossible in the time of social distancing.
In places like New York City and Detroit, hospitals and mortuaries have turned to refrigerated trailers to store bodies of those killed by COVID-19. For some, it gives them more time to possibly plan some sort of funeral or memorial service that fits within CDC guidelines.
For others, it gives them a sense of responsibility. Enter Tanisha Brunson-Malone, a forensic technician at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
After the pandemic started overwhelming hospitals in New York City and the surrounding areas, hospital staff began using trailers to store their dead. Entry to these trailers is heavily restricted, allowing only certain hospital personnel to enter them. Families are not even allowed to go inside to see loved ones, which is why Brunson-Malone began leaving yellow daffodils on each body, because, as she put it, it is “the right thing to do.”
This unfortunate need for more storage space has even pushed some manufacturers to adjust their production. Acela Truck Company, a manufacturer of fire and rescue trucks, was recently tasked by federal agencies to produce 200 mass fatality portable morgue trailers over the next several months.
And while some cities are doing their part to be better prepared for the current and possible upcoming waves of COVID-19 infection and its varying outcomes, some are learning from other mistakes, like a funeral home in Brooklyn that became overwhelmed and stored their dead in a non-refrigerated U-Haul rental and a tractor-trailer.
All you need to do is perform a simple Google search to find cities around the country are experiencing similar issues and are looking to local, state, and federal agencies to help secure these “mobile morgues,” as some have nicknamed them. It is a bandage on a bigger issue, but one that we will need to fix before we see a flattening of the curve and a return to a new normal. Hopefully, for some families, these trailers will give them extra time to plan a proper good-bye for their loved ones.
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