On the east side of Manhattan, steps from two of the city’s major hospitals, a large tent was going up Wednesday morning.
That tent was a there for one reason: overflow capacity for the city morgues.
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“I don’t think any of us have tried to sugarcoat this,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday. “It’s going to be really tough.”
The mayor has been blunt: more people are going to lose their lives to the new coronavirus.
“We have capacity right now. We have capacity for the foreseeable future. We’ve been working with FEMA to ensure we have additional capacity and we can handle what we have,” the mayor said.
Tents and trailers like it were expected to pop up across the five boroughs on Wednesday. Right now, a spokesperson for the office of the chief medical examiner told NY1 that city morgues are not close to meeting capacity. They have space for about 800 to 900 bodies.
As of Wednesday night, 280 people in New York City have died from the coronavirus so far. City officials expect the death toll to rise. The only question is, how fast?
So in comes the tent. The city purchased 45 tents and refrigerated trailers for overflow morgue capacity. With this infrastructure, the capacity citywide could grow to 3,500 bodies.
A spokesperson for the medical examiner said a similar protocol was implemented after the attacks on September 11, 2001.
“I know the morgues push a strong emotional button, obviously. We are all human. It’s a very troubling thing to see, and it makes it kind of immediate, kind of visceral,” de Blasio said. “It’s going to get a lot worse, and what we are trying to do now is save the people that don’t need to die.”
A spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency also said the state asked for FEMA's help. Officials requested disaster mortuary teams to come and assist. That request, we were told, was under the approval and review process.
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