Refrigerated Trailers Used As Mobile Morgues As Long Island Coronavirus Death Toll Rises

Refrigerated trailers, like this one spotted outside of Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, are increasingly being used on Long Island during the coronavirus pandemic. Long Island Press photo

As the coronavirus death toll continues to rise on Long Island, refrigerated trailers are increasingly being used to temporarily store those who succumb to COVID-19 in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Press reporters have found refrigerated trailers parked outside of several hospitals in both counties, Suffolk officials say they’ve acquired two such trailers to add capacity to the county morgue, and Nassau reportedly has five trailers it’s using as makeshift mobile morgues.

“One of the other realities that has come up in the last couple of days is … how is this the system handling this number of fatalities,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday during his daily coronavirus media conference call. “We have put plans in place to address that issue.”

He said the Suffolk medical examiner’s office is at 70 percent of its capacity, but the county acquired a refrigerator truck from New York State and acquired a second trailer on its own. Newsday reports that Nassau’s medical examiner has acquired five refrigerated trailers to help make room.

The development comes as Nassau reports its death toll increased from 381 on Monday to 500 on Tuesday, it’s largest increase to date. Suffolk’s increased from 199 on Monday to 263 on Tuesday. 

Coronavirus has claimed 5,489 lives statewide, as the Empire State also saw its largest increase with 731 fatalities Tuesday. COVID-19 has also claimed 11,690 lives nationwide and 81,103 worldwide.

WABC Ch. 7 Eyewitness News reported Tuesday that Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip is among local medical centers using a pair of trucks for the morgue overflow.

The Press has spotted refrigerated trailers outside of NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, Mt. Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, and Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.

“Our emergency preparedness measures are adequate at this time, and we’ve had a leveling-off of ER visits, compared to more dramatic numbers last week, so we’re cautiously optimistic,” Anne Kazel-Wilcox, a spokeswoman for NYU Winthrop Hospital, said when asked if the hospital will need more mobile morgues.

A spokesman for Mount Sinai South Nassau said the hospital has two and is acquiring a third. A spokesman for Northwell Health, which runs Southside Hospital and 22 other medical centers, said the healthcare system is using 14 refrigerated trailers at its LI facilities.

During his latest daily coronavirus new briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who recently termed six LI hospitals as coronavirus hot spots — expressed exasperation at the rising death toll and efforts to make room for those who died of the disease.

“You see those pictures on TV, getting to the situation where you have to put bodies in trucks in parking lots,” he said, reminding the public that behind each statistic is a individual and a family that can’t hold a funeral due to social-distancing mandates. “It’s something we struggle with every day. You can’t save everyone.”

-With additional reporting by Adam Brownstein

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