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30 Mar, 2020 23:29

US military will send ‘MORTUARY services’ staff to New York to cope with Covid-19 deaths as FEMA deploys mobile morgue trucks

US military will send ‘MORTUARY services’ staff to New York to cope with Covid-19 deaths as FEMA deploys mobile morgue trucks

The Pentagon will station a team of mortuary workers in New York to deal with the state’s fast-climbing coronavirus death toll, while FEMA plans to send some 85 trucks to free up space in its crowded morgues.

With nearly 7,000 new cases of the virus and 155 deaths on Monday alone, New York is by far America’s hardest-hit state in the Covid-19 pandemic, counting over 66,000 infections and more than 1,200 fatalities in total. The massive influx of patients and deaths has reportedly overwhelmed the state’s hospitals and morgues, prompting federal agencies – including the military – to send in reinforcements.

“We did receive a mission assignment from FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] for a mortuary affairs support team for New York and we’re in the process of sourcing some personnel,” Major General Jeff Taliaferro, vice director for operations at the Joint Staff, told reporters on Monday.

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While Taliaferro gave few additional details about the new deployment, FEMA regional director Thomas Von Essen said 42 military personnel would be sent to assist the Manhattan Medical Examiner’s Office with fatalities in New York City, the heart of the state’s outbreak.

Von Essen also announced plans to ship in 85 refrigerated trucks to double NYC’s morgue capacity from 3,500 to 7,000, but noted the trucks would only offer “temporary” relief to the city, which separately has also purchased 45 mobile morgue trucks.

The US Navy now has a presence in New York as well, with a 1,000-bed medical ship arriving at a Manhattan port on Monday to help take pressure off its hospitals, pushed to the brink of collapse due to a record number of emergency calls – over 7,000 on some days – and a severe shortage of equipment and protective gear. The ship, the USNS Comfort, will treat non-coronavirus patients, in hopes of freeing up beds in the city’s healthcare facilities.

The New York Police Department was called to disperse crowds after throngs of people gathered to watch the ship’s arrival, disregarding a statewide stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines imposed to stem the spread of the virus. Though violators could face up to a $500 fine, police reportedly did not hand out any tickets in scattering the crowd.

Central Park has also become home to a new field hospital, a makeshift respiratory care unit with 68 beds, as the Army Corps of Engineers works to convert the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan into another treatment center capable of housing more than 1,000 patients.

In an ill-fated effort to portray the chaos in New York’s hospitals, CBS has come under fire after airing the “wrong footage” in a recent broadcast, instead showing scenes from a hospital in Bergamo, Italy – another city practically overrun by Covid-19.

Though the news agency displayed the footage with the words “America’s epicenter” appearing on screen, a CBS spokesperson chalked it up to an “editing mistake.”

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