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Hospital says it has morgue capacity after Phoenix mayor says it’s full

Image from twitter.com/MayorGallego

(The Center Square) – A Phoenix-area hospital says it’s only following state protocols in asking for refrigerated trucks to hold a potential surge in bodies, contrary to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s comments to MSNBC Friday.

In an interview with Chuck Todd, Gallego remarked about the fight against the pandemic in her city.

“It has been such a tough situation out here,” she said. “Maricopa County, which is our county public health agency, just announced they are going to be getting refrigerated trucks because the Abrazo Health Care system has run out of morgue beds. It is very scary out here.”

Local and national news outlets covered the statement.

A spokesman for Abrazo said the hospital was being proactive in following state-ordered protocols.

“Abrazo hospitals currently have adequate morgue space.” said Keith Jones, communications manager for Abrazo. “The state has requested that hospitals implement their emergency plans. Part of activating our plan includes the ability to handle overflow morgue capacity if needed. Abrazo has taken a proactive approach by ordering refrigerated storage in the event it may be needed during a surge of COVID patients. At this point, it is not needed.”

Jones said Abrazo agreed with Gallego’s points around promoting awareness around masking, continuing to practice social distancing, and seeking medical care in an emergency need.

An official from Gallego’s office said Friday that a liason from the hospital system had said they were nearing capacity in a meeting with county officials.

“The City of Phoenix participates in meetings with the Maricopa County Unified Command Center. It was reported this week that morgue space is nearing capacity in some cases here in Arizona. An Abrazo liaison reported their morgue is at capacity,” said communications director Vielka Atherton. “The command center has also reported that the Maricopa Office of the Medical Examiner is at 97% capacity and is working with the Maricopa Department of Emergency Management to secure a contract for refrigerator trucks.”

Officials with Maricopa County released a statement on their morgue capacity Friday afternoon.

“The Office of the Medical Examiner has a normal capacity of 150 decedents.  It is currently at about 96% of that capacity. OME has the ability to expand capacity to more than 200 cases and will do so as needed.  As a precautionary measure, Maricopa County Unified Command has put plans and contracts into place to be able to quickly lease additional cooling space if necessary.”

The state has been under the national microscope in recent weeks, having seen a notable increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,221 new coronavirus cases Friday and 44 additional deaths.

The latest cases bring the total positive case count to 116,892, and 2,082 deaths.

The daily new case announcement represents the fourth-highest daily case total since the pandemic began. The percentage of positive cases per test has started to fall, today at 26 percent.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced Thursday a new executive order restricting dine-in restaurant capacity to fifty percent as well as statewide mask requirements for wait staff.

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