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Maricopa County orders more supplies as morgue enters surge capacity

(Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County officials on Wednesday said additional supplies have been ordered as the Medical Examiner’s Office morgue entered surge capacity.

Since Friday, the number of decedents in the morgue exceeded 150, causing the facility to enter surge capacity, Maricopa County Communications Director Fields Moseley said during a press conference.

“That puts us into a range of surge,” Moseley said.

“We have seen a larger number of decedents over the last few weeks — this is a cause for concern.”

During another press conference Thursday, county officials said capacity at Valley funeral homes is low because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is contributing to increase of decedents that need to be stored by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

They said the Medical Examiner doesn’t handle many coronavirus-related deaths, but it has to store decedents after all autopsies are completed until they can be transferred to funeral homes.

The figure of 156 decedents Wednesday represented about 75% of the morgue’s total capacity to hold 209 decedents.

To accommodate surge capacity levels, the county has ordered 4 portable coolers it expects to utilize by Thursday, according to Moseley. He said Thursday the county hasn’t ordered extra coolers in at least the past 10 years.

He said Wednesday that more coolers could be ordered this week.

“The four additional coolers will add an additional 60-80 spaces,” he said in an email sent to KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“It is prudent to put extra coolers in place because with a large population, numbers can shift quickly.”

Wednesday morning, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported a daily high of 97 new coronavirus deaths and 3,257 additional cases, increasing state totals to 131,354 and 2,434, respectively.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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