COVID-19 spike overwhelms medical examiner's office

Posted at 7:58 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 23:21:11-04

The Nueces County Medical Examiner’s office is no longer taking in bodies of those who have died from COVID-19. Now, plans are in place to get some help from local funeral homes and another morgue trailer.

Nueces Co. Judge Barbara Canales told KRIS 6 News because of the unexpected spike in novel coronavirus-related deaths, room is running out at the medical examiner’s office.

Canales said that's where funeral homes can help with storage.

“So what happens when you die at home and you were COVID-19 positive? The funeral homes being able to take that duty on is very welcoming,” she said. “I would imagine the funeral homes will be playing a big role in the upcoming weeks.”

Nueces County currently has one morgue trailer, but Canales also is asking FEMA for another trailer, along with supplies and technology to keep it up-and-running. The move comes after the medical examiner reached out and shared their concern about the situation.

“Our medical examiner, out of an abundance of caution, wants to make sure we have an array of everything that we need,” Canales said.

The Nueces County Medical Examiner’s office is also working closely with hospitals to perform autopsies only when it’s necessary. The office performs autopsies for 14 Coastal Bend counties.

Some deaths require autopsies, but not all do. For example, when the cause of death is known, such as in coronavirus, or when someone dies of natural causes, an autopsy is not necessary.

Meanwhile Canales said preparedness like this is tough, but it shows the severity of the situation.

“These are the hard parts of my job, having to do these types of things, but it’s also the reality of this virus, that preparedness even means things like bags and morgue trailers,” she said.