With morgue full and COVID surge continuing, city moves in 2 more mortuary trailers

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 5:02 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 5:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the state continues to grapple with rising COVID hospitalizations and deaths, the city Medical Examiner’s Office is reporting that it’s now 83% over capacity.

Officials also confirm a mortuary trailer that was placed at the site two weeks ago is nearly full. Crews could be seen moving equipment into the parking lot hours after two more trailers were deployed. The decision to move both trailers at once was based more on logistics than immediate need, officials said.

“Currently we are still only using one of the three trailers,” said Charlotte Carter, the Medical Examiner Office’s acting supervising medical legal investigator.

“I do anticipate if things don’t change quickly, in being able to make funeral services, that the second one will be put into active use shortly.”

She said the morgue can hold up to 60 people. On Wednesday morning, 110 were there.

Officials confirmed 55 were being stored inside the morgue while another 46 people were outside in a mortuary trailer. Nine more were being kept at an off site facility.

Carter said at least 22 are COVID positive and that staff are still working to determine if the virus is what indeed caused their death.

Meanwhile, the state’s coronavirus website reported 24 deaths in the last seven days.

“I think we need to keep in mind what a precarious situation we’re in,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, the state’s epidemiologist.

She warned coronavirus hospitalizations likely haven’t peaked. Add to that all the non-COVID emergencies and it’s a combination that’s pushing hospitals to their breaking point.

“We’re still facing a situation, a dire situation where many of our health systems are overwhelmed and overtaxed and are saying they can’t keep this up for much longer,” Kemble said.

Meanwhile, at the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office, Carter has this message for the community:

“If you have a loved one who’s in our office please work to make funeral arrangements. We’re here to support families through all of that.”

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