Richmond County Coroner prepares local hospitals with mobile morgues

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- As the coronavirus epidemic enters its second month in the United States, the casualties are starting to severely tax local governments’ ability to accommodate their dead.

That’s pushing Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen to work with local hospitals to be one step ahead so they don’t run out of room in Augusta.

“The state offered to loan us a couple of mobile morgues. I had one placed at Augusta University.”

The other sits at the Coroner’s Office. Bowen says he is working to get a mobile morgue at Doctors Hospital.

“Being the pandemic that we are in you never know what to expect and that’s when you have quite a few start dying, we just want to be ready for whatever takes place. I’d rather have them, and not need them, than not have them and need them.”

The mobile morgue placed at Augusta University can hold 18 bodies. The Coroner’s morgue can hold 20.

How long would you be able to hold them in there?

“We’ll keep them till we can find some disposition for them. Give the family some time to make some plans or arrangements and then we will have to move them.”

Bowen says he still has to be very mindful of his day to day cases outside of COVID-19.

“Right now we’ve been very busy both for regular deaths and planning for the COVID deaths. We’re just standing strong and pushing hard.”

But at every step of the process, from hospitals to funeral homes to city-run morgues, people are feeling the strain of the sharp increase in deaths and acknowledge that it is only a prelude of the flood that is sure to come.

“We have a good open line with the hospitals, the fire department. Everybody involved and working together is doing a great job in keeping in contact.”

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