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Ahead Of Expected Surge, Boston Is Working With Hospitals To Expand Morgue Capacity

A temporary morgue is being staged at Fitchburg State University's Landry Arena should the need arise if the COVID-19 death toll accelerates or if staff become less available. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A temporary morgue is being staged at Fitchburg State University's Landry Arena should the need arise if the COVID-19 death toll accelerates or if staff become less available. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

As an anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients and deaths approaches, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said Tuesday that the city is prepared to work with its hospitals to expand the capacity of their morgues.

The mayor said he has been in touch with hospitals and that the city is ready to expedite any permits needed to increase mortuary space. In New York City and elsewhere, officials have established temporary morgues and have used refrigerated trucks to temporarily store the dead.

In Massachusetts, the chief medical examiner established a staging area at Fitchburg State University's Landry Area to serve as a temporary morgue should the need arise if the COVID-19 death toll accelerates or if staff become less available.

"The next few weeks are going to be a test of our health care capacity like never before. We're going to see cases continue to climb," Walsh said Tuesday afternoon. "And unfortunately, we're going to see a lot more loss of life. We expect hospitals will need to add their capacity to their morgues."

Walsh said that any operations associated with expanding morgue capacity "will not be visible to the public."

"These facilities are an unsettling reminder of how serious this emergency is. It underscores the urgent work we must continue to do to support and expand our medical capacity," Walsh said.

On Monday, a New York City Council member caused a stir when he claimed on Twitter that officials were considering temporarily burying some COVID-19 patients in city parks. The mayor has since said some temporary burials may become necessary, but they would not be in city parks

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