CHICAGO (CBS) — With COVID-19 cases not expected to peak until sometime next month, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has set up a refrigerated trailer for overflow, should they start running out of room at the morgue.
The refrigerated trailer now stationed in the medical examiner’s office parking lot can hold 30 bodies.
The morgue has a total volume of 285 bodies, but at any given time, there could be 200 bodies housed at the facility, according to spokeswoman Natalia Derevyanny, meaning there’s probably less than 100 available spots available now.
If the morgue needs more extra room than the trailer, the medical examiner’s office is in the process of acquiring a refrigerated warehouse off-site.
“The goal is that we don’t have to use it — but want to be able to ensure that we have the space,” Derevyanny said.
So far, the county has had at least 48 coronavirus deaths, and those bodies have been transferred to the refrigerated trailer until they can be buried. The body of any coronavirus victim at the morgue is double-bagged, and the bags are sanitized to prevent the spread of the virus. Even suspected COVID-19 cases are double-bagged and the bags are disinfected with bleach or alcohol-based disinfectant.
The autopsy room for coronavirus cases has negative pressure, as well as a separate ventilation system, to prevent the spread of the virus.
The medical examiner’s office also set up refrigerated trailers at the morgue during the city’s infamous 1995 heat wave, when nearly 750 people died from the heat in less than a week.