Members of the Texas National Guard were mobilized to El Paso County, Texas, to help with the morgue crisis as the state battles a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.
A team of 36 National Guard troops has been deployed to “provide mortuary affairs support,” according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).
The team was mobilized Saturday morning “after completing an assessment of the situation on the ground in El Paso County this week,” TDEM spokesman Seth Christensen told CNN.
“As we’ve seen a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations, we are unfortunately also seeing a spike in deaths. We have been working closely with funeral homes and mortuaries to assist with increased capacity and coordination of resources,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said in a statement on Twitter.
“The Texas Military will provide us with the critical personnel to carry out our fatality management plan and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing support.”
Margo said the city and county have secured a central morgue location to add additional capacity. The location of the morgue will not be disclosed due to privacy concerns, according to the mayor’s statement.
The Texas National Guard was called to replace inmates who were recruited by El Paso earlier this week to move bodies of coronavirus victims to temporarily relieve overworked personnel.
Last month, funeral homes in the county prepared refrigerated units to house bodies in case they became overloaded. The county also requested four additional mobile morgues last week, which would bring the total of mobile morgues to 10.
El Paso, one of Texas’ Covid-19 hotspots, reported 1,074 new Covid-19 cases and eight deaths Saturday. The county has recorded a total of 853 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the county health department Covid-19 dashboard.
The number of US coronavirus cases surpassed 12 million Saturday — an increase of more than 1 million cases in less than a week.
More than 255,000 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported in the US since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of coronavirus-related deaths in El Paso County and linked to the incorrect county dashboard. The county has recorded 853 coronavirus-related deaths.