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Morgue trailers sought for seven veterans’ medical centers in Florida

Confirmed cases of coronavirus among veterans nationwide has surpassed 2,100, with 78 deaths

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to buy refrigerated mobile morgue trailers for seven veterans’ medical centers in Florida and one in Puerto Rico, including the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in St. Petersburg and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.

“These trailers will be used in accordance with our pandemic response plan for any requirements to expand our current morgue capacity and operations,” said Mary Kay Rutan, spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs network that oversees medical centers in Florida.

The solicitation for the trailers, originally published on March 25, comes as numbers are rising in confirmed COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 related deaths among the nation’s veterans.

As of April 3, the department reported 2,184 confirmed veteran cases nationwide with 78 deaths, mostly among patients over 60. Locally, there are two reported inpatient and four outpatient cases at Bay Pines and three inpatient and four outpatient cases in Tampa.

In its national COVID-19 plan, the department said there would likely be a critical shortage of health care resources, including morgue capacity and “temporary holding sites with refrigeration for storage of deceased.” The plan, released to the public March 27, also assumes that the COVID-19 event “could last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illness.”

A body is loaded onto a refrigerated container truck used as a temporary morgue Tuesday at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York.
A body is loaded onto a refrigerated container truck used as a temporary morgue Tuesday at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York. [ JOHN MINCHILLO | AP ]

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending 85 refrigerated trucks to serve as temporary morgues outside hospitals in New York City, the U.S. region hardest hit by the pandemic, the city said.

The White House projected last week that 100,00 to 240,000 people will die nationwide from the virus.

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