US mortuaries overcrowded as bodies pile up

Dead bodies of coronavirus victims are piling up across the United States.

And then there are the bodies waiting in overcrowded mortuaries to be buried as cities struggle to meet demand and families wrestle with rules on social distancing that make the usual funeral rituals impossible.

According to The Associated Press, Med Alliance Group (a medical distributor in Illinois) is besieged by calls and emails from cities around the country. Each asks the same thing: Send more refrigerated trailers so that we can handle a situation we never could have imagined.

“They’re coming from all over: From hospitals, health systems, coroner’s offices, VA facilities, county and state health departments, state emergency departments and funeral homes,” said Christie Penzol, a spokeswoman for Med Alliance.

“It’s heart-wrenching.”

The company has rented all its trailers and there’s an 18-week wait for new materials to build more, she said.

With US medical experts and even President Trump now estimating the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could reach 240,000 nationwide, the sheer practicalities of death—where to put the bodies—are worrying just about everyone as cities, hospitals, and private medical groups clamor to secure additional storage.

The need is compounded by private mortuary space that is occupied longer than usual as people wait to bury their loved ones—regardless of how they died—because rules on social distancing make planning funerals difficult.

It’s a crisis being repeated worldwide, from Spain to Ecuador to New York City.