Winnebago County

Illinois County Coroner Buys Refrigerated Trailer as Virus Surges

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A northern Illinois coroner’s office has purchased a refrigerated trailer in the event deaths related to COVID-19 overwhelms his office’s capacity to store bodies.

The purchase of the $30,000 trailer was made as space in the county’s morgue neared capacity, Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz said.

“The way our numbers were rising at an alarming level, and I do say alarming, I did not want to be caught without any spaces left,” he said.

Hintz told theRockford Register-Starthat despite the volume of 12 to 14 deaths daily — largely attributed to natural causes, deaths and homicides — there was ample room through early fall in the 64-body morgue to accept bodies from each of the city’s hospitals as their smaller individual morgues began to fill up. The county morgue began to fill in November.

Hintz said the morgue’s 64-body capacity doesn’t accurately reflect the number of bodies that can be stored. He noted larger individuals will take up more than one space. He also said the morgue’s capacity is reduced because several spaces are reserved strictly for COVID-19-related deaths.

The refrigerated unit is capable of holding 30 to 40 bodies. Hintz said the trailer would be used to house an overflow of individuals who died by causes not related to COVID-19. Currently, the trailer sits empty.

Hintz said it is not unusual for a body to be kept at the morgue for 30 days or longer, adding that moving bodies to a funeral home in a timely fashion is not easy.

“When we reach out to the next of kin and ask them what funeral home they would like to use, some of the answers we get are, ‘I don’t have a job. I lost my job due to COVID. It’s going to take me a little bit to find money so I can take care of my loved one,’” Hintz said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 7,910 new COVID-19 cases and 145 more deaths.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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