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After Kate Gallego’s warnings, Abrazo says it has ‘adequate morgue space’

(KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross, File)

PHOENIX — Abrazo Community Health Network said it has “adequate morgue space” Friday after Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego told media outlets the Valley hospital system’s morgues were filling up because of coronavirus deaths.

“Abrazo hospitals currently have adequate morgue space,” Abrazo spokesman Keith Jones in a statement.

“The state has requested that hospitals implement their emergency plans. Part of activating our plan includes the ability to handle overflow morgue capacity if needed.”

Jones said the company ordered refrigerated storage as a proactive step “in the event it may be needed during a surge of COVID patients. At this point it is not needed.”

Abrazo issued its statement in response to inquiries after Gallego’s comments to national and local TV stations.

Gallego told MSNBC that Maricopa County Public Health “announced that they are going to be getting refrigerated trucks because the Abrazo health system has run out of morgue beds. It is very scary out here.”

Later in the interview she said, “It’s not throughout the county, but one very important” part of the system.

She repeated the message in an interview with ABC15.

“Abrazo health care is having an issue right now, specific just to one area, so this is not a statewide problem,” she told the Phoenix station.

She went on to say, “I would say Abrazo is near capacity, so we are, well, Maricopa County Public Health and others, are really looking at everything they can do. We’re not done yet, but really looking to prevent problems.”

Gallego’s office also issued a statement to ABC15 saying county authorities were working on alternatives for handling fatalities.

“The command center has also reported that the Maricopa Office of the Medical Examiner is at 97% capacity and is working with the Maricopa Department of Emergency Management to secure a contract for refrigerator trucks,” the statement said.

The county told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an emailed statement the Medical Examiner’s office is at about 96% of its capacity, which is 150 decedents. Capacity can be increased to 200 if needed, the county said, which will provide time to carry out plans for adding cooler space.

Gallego has been critical of Gov. Doug Ducey’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and repeated her concerns during Friday’s media appearances that state authorities haven’t done enough to curb the spread as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have risen.

On Thursday, Ducey ordered Arizona’s restaurants to restrict occupancy to under 50% of capacity and revealed plans for ramping up testing. He also said there are signs the state’s COVID-19 curve is starting to flatten.

Arizona has gained recent national notoriety as a COVID-19 hot spot. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,221 new coronavirus cases Friday morning and 44 more deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 116,892 cases and 2,082 fatalities.

“We do agree with the mayor’s points around promoting awareness around masking, continuing to practice social distancing and seeking medical care in the event of an emergency need,” Abrazo’s Jones said.

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