Marion County creating overflow morgue in case of COVID-19 surge

The Marion County Emergency Operations Center is setting up a temporary overflow morgue that would be used if hospital morgues reach capacity during the COVID-19 crisis.

The temporary morgue will be located near downtown and will be available for use starting Thursday, health officials said Wednesday. The exact location of the morgue was not identified.

It will be staffed by the Marion County Coroner’s Office and will be able to hold upward of 750 bodies. Funeral homes would be able to pick up bodies from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“Protecting the health of our community also means preparing for a potential increase in deaths over the coming weeks,” Dr. Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, said in a media release.

It wasn’t clear how close hospitals currently are to capacity. Officials didn’t immediately respond to queries from IBJ.

The morgue will support hospitals and long-term care facilities that could see a significant increase in deaths caused by COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, about 10 days before cases in Indiana are expected by some experts to peak, Marion County had reported 2,290 cases of COVID-19 and 58 deaths. Throughout the state, there have been 5,943 cases reported and 203 deaths.

The Marion County Public Health Department, the Marion County Coroner’s Office, the Managed Emergency Surge for Healthcare Coalition, and the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety led the effort to establish the facility.

“Being prepared to respond to an unprecedented public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic requires a new level of collaboration among public health and public safety agencies,” Dr. Lee Sloan, Marion County Coroner, said in written comments. “Securing and standing up this temporary overflow morgue is just one example of the ways we are all working together to best provide for the needs of affected families during these challenging times.”

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