April 01, 2020
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New York City builds massive makeshift morgue

Mary Altaffer | AP
Mary Altaffer | AP
A tent that will be used as a makeshift morgue being built in New York is seen, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York climbed to 3,800, with close to 900 in intensive care, with the peak of the outbreak weeks away, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

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NEW YORK — Giant tents and big refrigerated trucks have been set up outside Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan to accommodate thousands of dead bodies in case the coronavirus overwhelms the city’s morgue system.

The city Medical Examiner’s office set up the grim operation at the hospital in Kips Bay this week. The Bellevue campus also includes the Medical Examiner’s headquarters.

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In normal times, city morgues can normally handle between 800 and 900 bodies at a time, city Medical Examiner spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis said.

So far, the morgues aren’t close to hitting that capacity, she said. But as the coronavirus death toll rises, city officials are preparing for the worst.

“We would use these to expand as needed,” Worthy-Davis said.

The tents and trucks can handle between 3,500 and 3,600 bodies, she said.

“We’re in a public health crisis, and the city has declared a state of emergency,” said a statement distributed by Worthy-Davis. “As part of that declaration, agencies like OCME (the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner) have enacted emergency contingency plans to help prepare for every possible outcome.”

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